April 18, 2024

PM: Too soon to confirm travel restart

The Prime Minister’s much-anticipated announcement about international travel was “beyond disappointing”, according to the Business Travel Association (BTA).

Boris Johnson said the Government wants to see a return to non-essential international travel “as soon as possible, while still managing the risk from imported cases and variants of concern” but said it was “still too soon to know what is possible”.

Johnson confirmed that when travel restarts there would be a risk-based ‘traffic light’ system, with a new green category requiring no isolation on return to the UK, although pre-departure and post-arrival tests would still be needed. 

He said the Global Travel Taskforce will publish its report, setting out more details on this system, later this week but confirmed that the earliest date for international travel would still be May 17.

Clive Wratten, BTA CEO, said: “We are leading the way in vaccination and science. This is a cause of huge celebration, but, if we are to restart our economy, we need to have a clear pathway to international travel and trade. This has once again been kicked down the road.

“To be a truly global Britain, we must lead the way in opening borders, supporting vital supply chains, and digitising health certification. The business travel industry continues to be crippled by today’s lack of movement. We ask the Government to be confident in its roadmap as the Global Travel Taskforce reports on April 12. This is our last resort.”

Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK, said the announcement failed to provide the clarity it was seeking on the roadmap back towards normality.

“We await further details but the measures indicated, including the potential for multiple tests for travellers even from ‘green countries’, will prevent meaningful travel even to low-risk destinations,” he said.

“Of critical importance will be moving countries – transparently – through the tiers into ‘green’, reviewing measures urgently in light of the latest and best available evidence so that they are effective but also proportionate to the risk. Also crucial is embracing cost-effective rapid testing, thus ensuring the alignment of international travel with the domestic economy, which will be so important for the UK’s economic recovery.”

Andrew Crawley, Chief Commercial Officer of American Express GBT, said: “It is encouraging to see the Government attempt to develop a strategic approach to restarting international travel. However, it is vital that any approach be underpinned by a seamless global travel framework that is mutually recognised by countries around the world.

“This means having interoperable systems in place that securely manage and validate test results or vaccine status and link this information with individual identity and travel processes so we have a safe return to travel that is manageable for authorities and airlines, and convenient for travellers. 

“The UK must use its G7 presidency to lead collaboration on the development of such globally-accepted standards and champion a global return to international travel that drives trade and economic growth.”