June 15, 2024

Paving a pathway to border reopening

Clive Wratten, CEO of the BTA, calls on the UK Government to think long-term to get the industry moving again

As we enter the second month of 2021, we should have some reason for optimism.

More than 12 million people have received their first vaccine shot – a huge credit to the companies that developed them and to our dedicated health workers and armed forces for getting them into people’s arms so quickly.

Clive Wratten

Infection rates and hospital admissions are starting to fall. It may be early days, but it did seem that the darkest days of winter were behind us.

Then the quarantine hotel scheme was announced.

Public safety must always come first, but the details of the scheme the Government unveiled yesterday will bring business travel to a standstill, and prevent thousands from doing their jobs.

The scheme places liability for the legality of travel on an already beleaguered industry. It singularly fails to see the impact of these decisions on the travel supply chain and sows uncertainty in even the hardiest traveller. These latest decisions are inflicting mortal damage on livelihoods across the country.

Despite the criticism for the delayed introduction of the scheme, more worrying is the completely lack of transparency of how it can be lifted. There’s now a real risk that the Government will keep elements in place for many months. If it does, this drastic measure risks cutting the UK off from the world, and will have devastating consequences for our industry and the economy as a whole.

“These latest decisions are inflicting mortal damage on livelihoods across the country”

To avoid this nightmare scenario, the Government must stop focusing only on prevention and start mapping out the route to safe travel from this latest lowest point. It needs to urgently develop a practical and realistic plan to get the UK travelling and trading again, whilst also offering targeted support to our industry.

Pre-departure testing needs be an integral part of that plan, but so does international cooperation. With vaccinations and infection rates varying across the globe, countries must act multi-laterally if borders are to be opened in a safe and coordinated way.

So, we urge the Government to work with its counterparts around the world to quickly develop international standards of entry. This will include vaccination status, testing regimes and indeed quarantine requirement. To keep the world moving this must be a single, unified approach that is quick and easy to introduce.

The health of nations can be measured in a number of ways. The medical health of a population must always come first, but the economic health must never be forgotten.

Business travel contributes over £220 billion to the UK economy every year, and supports tens of thousands of jobs. It will help us build vital trading relationships across the globe as we enter a new chapter outside the EU.

The rapid vaccination roll out is an impressive demonstration of what can be achieved with focus, dedication and skill. For the UK to face the future with confidence, the Government needs to follow the medical shot in the arm with an economic one, and work towards re-opening our borders as quickly as possible.