July 23, 2021

Waiting for the green light

There was a mixed response to the Government's latest announcement on the traffic light system. Here's what travel industry leaders had to say...

Popular leisure destinations, including Spain’s Balearic Islands, Madeira, Malta and some Caribbean islands, are being added to the UK’s green list from today (June 30).

It means arrivals from these destinations will no longer have to quarantine for 10 days.

Meanwhile, Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Haiti, Mongolia, Tunisia and Uganda are being added to the red list.

The news, announced last Thursday on Twitter, was met with frustration and disappointment from the business travel sector, which had been lobbying for the US and key European destinations to be added to the list of quarantine-free destinations.

Even those who described the latest announcement as a step in the right direction said it fell short. Here’s some of the reaction:

Drew Crawley, American Express Global Business Travel Chief Commercial Officer
Today’s announcement falls far short of what the travel industry, businesses and our economy need. With the successful roll-out of a national vaccination programme and the technology already in place via the NHS app, there is no reason why the UK cannot progress a safe and managed return to international travel and trade.”

Twice-vaccinated travellers should be able to travel from an amber country as if it were a green country, and be under no obligation to quarantine on return. We therefore urge the Government to embrace the emerging protocol of exempting fully vaccinated travellers from quarantine requirements.  

With the European Union last week announcing that it will allow twice-vaccinated US residents to travel across the Atlantic, the UK risks falling even further behind if the Government does not act soon. Every day the UK is forced to play catch up directly undercuts our economic recovery and we can’t afford to wait.”

Charlie Cornish, MAG Group CEO
“Today’s announcement is a long overdue step towards a restart for international travel, giving customers more options when looking to book a holiday this summer. However, serious questions remain as to why these destinations weren’t opened-up sooner when there is clear evidence to suggest this could have been done weeks ago.

“At the same time, the Government has again failed to publish the data and advice it is using to inform its decisions, which makes it harder to prepare for any future changes to the lists. Stating an intention to enable double vaccinated people to travel to amber countries without the need to self isolate on return is also long overdue and this policy must be implemented as soon as possible. Vague and open-ended promises are just not good enough.

“While UK citizens are stuck at home, Europeans are on the move and taking advantage of their own vaccination programmes to lift restrictions and open-up travel to low-risk destinations. The Government already has clear evidence on the effectiveness of vaccines, but its sluggish and opaque response to international travel restrictions is squandering the UK’s leadership in this area.

“With no transparency from Government, we simply cannot understand how Ministers are taking these decisions, which are fundamental to the future of a sector that supports more than 1m jobs and billions of pounds of economic value.”

Virginia Messina, WTTC Senior Vice President
“Adding more destinations to the green list, including the popular Balearic Islands, is positive news and will come as a welcome boost to both holidaymakers and the struggling Travel & Tourism sector. However, all but Malta have been placed on the so-called ‘green watchlist’, which will cause further confusion for holidaymakers and dampen demand.

“We are also disappointed that a date hasn’t been set for quarantine-free travel for double-jabbed Brits returning from amber list holiday hotspots, which would allow the industry time to prepare and travellers time to plan. Why are we still waiting and not taking advantage of the UK’s highly-successful vaccine rollout?”

Sean Doyle, British Airways Chairman and CEO
“While we welcome the additions to the green list, it’s essential we get travel back up and running as soon as possible. We cannot afford another missed summer. There are jobs at stake, Britons separated from family members and we cannot afford to allow the success of our vaccine programme to be wasted.

“The plans to allow vaccinated travellers to move freely this summer are critical and we would urge Government to work urgently with the aviation industry to get this in place. 

“We would also like to understand whether this means our customers will benefit from reduced or eradicated costly testing procedures. A change in the official FCDO advice to allow people to travel to amber list countries will be critical to the success of this plan.”

Jason Oshiokpekhai, Managing Director of Global Travel Collection UK
“The news of a number of realistic holiday destinations added to the green list is a promising step in the right direction for the recovery of our industry. With the news of the late ‘green watchlist’ being implemented, it is of paramount importance that the Government work closely with the industry in the coming weeks and months.

“What still rings true, is our lack of insight into what official data determines a country as green. This data determines the course of our industry’s future. It is what will repair consumer confidence, a vital determinant in our recovery. We deserve this transparency.

“As an industry, we waited in anticipation for the announcement of no quarantine for double-vaccinated passengers returning from amber destinations – a decision that was finally in line with science and sense.

“We urgently need more clarity on this – we have already lost a significant portion of what we had expected to be our life-line recovery period, there is no reason why we should not be benefiting from the profound progress we have made with our vaccination programme.

“Right now, we have over 60% of our UK population double vaccinated with a protection that has proved efficacy against all circulating variants. Pairing this with the news of zero variants imported from over 20,000 passengers returning from amber list countries, the question begs – what are we waiting for?”

Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association
Today’s review of the traffic light system is bitterly disappointing. The Government is cutting-off British businesses and causing further damage to our economy. For every week that major business travel destinations aren’t added to the green list, UK GDP loses at least £3 billion from trips that can’t happen.

The failure to update on the progress of the Transatlantic Taskforce shows the Government’s lack of understanding of the dire straits the travel industry as a whole is facing.

As other nations open-up for international travel and trade, we remain in virtual lockdown. With nearly 200,000 jobs lost already, targeted financial support must be offered to protect jobs and companies across the travel industry.

Public safety is the priority, but the Government must listen to the data and experts to enable small, medium and large businesses to operate on the international stage.”