June 18, 2021

Reaction to the green list

The UK Government has confirmed the first 12 destinations on the 'green list', with some notable exceptions. Here's how the business travel industry responded

The UK Government has revealed the first green list destinations as part of its new traffic light system relating to Covid travel restrictions.

The traffic light system – with green, amber and red allocated to each destination – was initially introduced just for England but Scotland has confirmed it will adopt the same system from Monday (May 17).

The list, which will be reviewed every three weeks, currently rates the following 12 countries and territories as ‘green’, which means anyone who has visited them will no longer have to go into quarantine but must still take a test for Covid-19 two days after arriving back into the UK.

  • Portugal
  • Israel
  • Singapore
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Brunei
  • Iceland
  • Gibraltar
  • Falkland Islands
  • Faroe Islands
  • South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands
  • St Helena, Tristan de Cunha and Ascension Island

The list was met with a mixed response from the UK’s corporate travel sector.

Clive Wratten, CEO Business Travel Association

“We welcome the inclusion of Singapore. It shows the Government’s commitment to both business and leisure travel. However, key business destinations with low infection and high vaccination rates are not included such as the US and the UAE.

“Public health remains paramount. We will continue to work with the Government on its phased re-opening of further travel routes to these crucial business travel destinations.”

Scott Davies, CEO ITM

“It’s encouraging to hear that the Government’s Global Travel Taskforce recognise the importance of meeting face to face, that international travel reunites people and is crucial to rebuilding the UK economy. The announcement of the 12 green list countries is a very tentative step towards unlocking travel from May 17 and is primarily going to benefit the leisure travel industry. It’s not going to make much difference to the business travel sector.

“The traffic light system and its different testing, quarantine and isolation protocols are complex and will deter companies from booking business travel unless it’s absolutely essential. Nevertheless, it is a step in the right direction towards facilitating business travel. But there’s still a way to go in terms of vaccination programmes and consistent Covid testing regimes globally to ensure the safe return of significant levels of business travel.”

Andrew Crawley, American Express GBT Chief Commercial Officer

“It is hugely disappointing that the US has not been included on the green list. We welcome that active conversations are underway with the Biden administration, but progress has been too slow.

“Keeping US-UK travel closed is detrimental to the economic recoveries in both countries and prevents the UK from engaging with its biggest trading partner outside of Europe. Transatlantic routes are among the busiest in the world and worth billions of pounds to both UK and US airlines.

“The US and UK are virtually neck and neck in national vaccination programme progress and have similar r-rates, raising several questions as to why travel between these countries is still being hindered by Government and how it is making decisions. It is vital that the Government continues to provide clarity and add countries to the green list.

“For months, GBT has been urging the UK Government to use its G7 presidency to lead international collaboration on globally-accepted digital travel certification standards. We urge the Government to hasten discussions with G7 counterparts and to implement a framework for an interoperable, mutually-recognized system that would underpin the safe return to international travel and catalyse global economic recovery.”

Jason Oshiokpekhai, Managing Director Global Travel Collection UK

“While we welcome this initial announcement as the first step to resuming international travel, the Government continues to bypass the business travel industry as a unique and valuable stream of travel.

“We have been completely disregarded as a sector. Business travellers span a wide range of industries and economies: from oil and gas to film production and from small to midsize companies, to global accounting firms. It is imperative that the business travel sector is considered for quarantine exemption with proof of a negative test or vaccine protection.

“Travel Management Companies have the systems, controls and capabilities in place to manage and track travellers. Monitoring measures are already embedded into our operations as part of our duty of care to business clients and key corporate routes. We urge the Government to lean on our resources and utilise our businesses to aid a safe resumption for business travel with quarantine exemption.”

Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO Advantage Travel Partnership

Grant Shapps in his announcement recognised the crucial role international travel will play in building the economy, however, the 12 countries now on the green list are not particularly useful to the business traveller, especially as some of the destinations such as Singapore won’t even allow British travellers in. We were hoping that the US would be included on the list; this route has huge economic importance and would have given the business travel industry the boost it desperately needs. The ‘green list’ was disappointing – we needed it to be more extensive to allow business travel to gradually resume safely and start the recovery process.

We appreciate that any decisions with regards to categorising destinations will be dictated by the scientific data, but we hope that there is more consistency and transparency this year when it comes to destinations remaining on the list, to prevent the yo-yo effect we saw last year and the operational fallout that this caused. Our Government should also consider the benefits of taking a united approach across our four nations moving forward, to make restarting international travel as simple as possible for both leisure travel agencies and TMCs.”

Scott Pawley, Managing Director Global Travel Management

“Any opening up of holiday destinations is important because it helps ensure that the business of travel is front of mind for business leaders around the UK. The Secretary of State for Transport can’t stimulate demand for business travel but he can make sure travel is at the top of the news agenda and, in doing so, make business owners turn their attention to their next corporate trips. Grant Shapps dictates what travel is possible, but businesses decide what travel is necessary.  

“The green list is slanted towards leisure travel. Companies need to travel to some destinations not on the green list, for example the US and UAE. These are two of the destinations we would like to see shifted to the green list as soon as safely possible.  

“Our job as travel management companies is to help businesses navigate the complex issues surrounding the reaching and return from their crucial destination, safely, but within the rules. This role has never been more critical.”