July 23, 2021

What’s the secret?

As France moves to ‘amber-plus’, Danny Callaghan, Chairman of the Travel Industry Alliance, questions why the Government won't share the methodology for its fast-changing traffic light system

The Travel Industry Alliance has this week written to Huw Merriman MP, Chair of the Transport Select Committee, urging that the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, be called before the committee to explain why the government refuses to publish the methodology and data behind the classification of countries under the traffic light system. 

The refusal to publish this is particularly frustrating because all the actual data is in the public domain – case rates, vaccination rates, etc. – yet one would think we were asking for state secrets or confidential sources.

It is of huge importance that consumers and travel professionals have visibility on what drives an individual destination’s grading. The easing of restriction for double-vaccinated UK residents visiting amber destinations was a welcome small step but has now created a whole new problem for the travel industry. Up until now customers have tended to look at green-list destinations with the knowledge that, should the destination become amber, they would have to self isolate at home and take several PCR tests.

“The government is changing the rules at the drop of a hat, with the ‘amber-plus’ rules that have been invented for France”

However, the ‘opening’ of amber destinations presents a whole other level of risk to consumers, as there is no amber-to-red watchlist, or amber to amber-plus as it now appears, and the difference in restrictions between being a double-vaccinated Brit coming back from an amber country and coming back from a red country are huge. And as we saw on Friday night, the government is changing the rules at the drop of a hat, with the ‘amber-plus’ rules that have been invented for France. Are we really saying that a family of four on holiday in, for example Spain, could suddenly find themselves on the red list with a bill for thousand of pounds for managed quarantine? 

We urgently need visibility on whether an amber country is at the ‘green end’ of the scale or verging on red.

Questioning of the Secretary of State for Transport inevitably resulting in his statement that the information is on the .gov website. Whilst there is a small amount of information available, it is far from comprehensive and offers no opportunity for those of us in the travel trade to understand the methodology.

As a result, we have asked that the Secretary of State be called before the Transport Select Committee to explain why this information cannot be published. I think we have all but given up hope of the methodology itself being published, but it would be nice to at least know why it can’t be published and why the travel industry is being left in the dark.