Foreign Office risk assessment ‘undermines’ travellers’ confidence, says top holiday boss

Exclusive: ‘Using FO advice to manage Covid is like using a cannon to kill a fly’ – Derek Jones, Kuoni UK's managing director

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Friday 11 September 2020 10:30 BST
Closed shop: A travel agency in Kensington High Street, London
Closed shop: A travel agency in Kensington High Street, London (Simon Calder)

Top holiday bosses have attacked the Foreign Office’s latest warning on Portugal, saying it “undermines” confidence in the official travel advice.

Derek Jones, Kuoni UK's managing director, wrote in a tweet: “I cannot stress this enough. Using FO advice to manage Covid is like using a cannon to kill a fly.

”It undermines the essential role that the Foreign Office plays in ensuring the safety and well-being of travellers.”

Mr Jones was commenting after the Portuguese mainland was put in the same risk category as central Kabul and parts of Somalia, with the Foreign Office saying: “[We] advise against all but essential travel to mainland Portugal.”

The same level of warning applies to seven Greek islands including Crete, Mykonos, Santorini and Zante.

The effect of the Foreign Office advice is to nullify most travel insurance policies – although the European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) remains effective in providing free or low-cost medical treatment in EU countries.

It is now standard practice for the Foreign Office to warn against all but essential travel as soon as the Department for Transport imposes a quarantine requirement on a destination.

Another senior figure has challenged the “double lock” of Foreign Office warning and two weeks of quarantine.

Ash Sofat, chief executive of the long-haul independent specialist, Somak Holidays, called the Foreign Office advice “the real elephant in the room”.

He believes many holidaymakers would be prepared to accept two weeks of self-isolation in return for being able to visit destinations such as mainland Portugal and popular Greek islands – but that they are being deterred by the official alert and the suspension of travel insurance.

Flight cancelled after child refuses to wear mask

'“The double lock only serves to strangle our industry which is already on its knees,” he told The Independent.

“The answer is to let Brits travel and let them self isolate when they get back.”

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: "The purpose of our travel advice is to provide information to help British people make their own informed decisions about foreign travel and keep them safe.

"It is the simplest and quickest way for travellers to check advice and any restrictions when considering a destination, and contains the most up to date information on the situation in other countries.”

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