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UK government has ‘shattered’ Britons’ confidence in travel, says Abta chief

‘What went back on sale one week is taken off again the next,’ said chief executive, Mark Tanzer

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 30 September 2020 08:48 BST
Flag day: Baden Baden in Germany, one of the few countries still open to British travellers this autumn
Flag day: Baden Baden in Germany, one of the few countries still open to British travellers this autumn (Simon Calder)

Confidence in travelling abroad has been “shattered” by government policies, the leading travel trade association has said.

Abta, representing travel agents and tour operators, is accusing ministers of creating “a straitjacket to travel”.

The government applies a “double lock” to the vast majority of holiday destinations. Prospective visitors to France, Spain, Portugal and many other countries face travelling without insurance because the Foreign Office warns they are “unacceptably high risk,” and must self-isolate on their return home for 14 days.

A survey of 2,000 people revealed that four out of five worry about having to quarantine when they return from holiday to the UK, while 93 per cent are concerned about potential last-minute changes to Foreign Office travel advice.

Mark Tanzer, the chief executive, said: “The travel industry was the first to be affected by the coronavirus crisis and will be the last to recover.

“What travel businesses need more than anything is for people to feel confident enough to travel again.

“The chopping and changing of quarantine measures and travel advice means what went back on sale one week is taken off again the next. This, coupled with an increasing number of local lockdowns in the UK, is creating extremely difficult market conditions for travel businesses, with travel agents particularly hurting.

“Policy decisions taken by government to manage the pandemic have served as a straitjacket to travel.

“Without action from the government, we are going to see businesses that would be perfectly viable if government were to ease restrictions on travel closing their doors, and thousands of jobs will be lost. 

“Addressing these issues, while maintaining health precautions, must now be a priority for ministers.”

A government spokesperson said: “Our priority has always been to protect people’s health and the NHS. However, we have also provided unprecedented support to the aviation industry and took early action on airport slots, loans, tax deferrals, and paying people’s wages through the furlough scheme.”

Decisions on adding or removing countries from the quarantine list are based on virus incidence rates, an assessment of a country’s testing capacity and quality of health data, and measures being deployed by a country to tackle coronavirus.

The Foreign Office tells British travellers: “Developments in the coronavirus pandemic remain uncertain around the world. No travel is risk-free.

“Our travel advice will help you to form your own judgements about travelling or living in a particular country, and alert you to any new information.”

Abta says that, in normal times, the UK's travel industry supports more than 100 million outbound and inbound journeys annually, employs close to one million people and makes an economic contribution worth £1,000 for each British citizen.

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