Update to ‘green list’ countries won’t be enough to salvage summer, say business leaders

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Government plans to expand of the UK’s green travel list don’t go far enough for an industry in “urgent need” of support, local and national business leaders have warned.

Arrivals from 16 tourist hotspots, including Spain’s Balearic Islands, have been told by the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps that they won’t have to quarantine from 4am on Wednesday.

Shapps also said the government plans to drop quarantine for fully vaccinated people returning from amber list countries “later in the summer”.

But the boss of MAG, the group that owns Manchester Airport, East Midlands and Stansted,said while the announcement is a “long overdue step towards” a restart for international travel – some serious questions remain as to why these destinations weren’t opened-up sooner.

Charlie Cornish, MAG Group CEO, said: “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.”

East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said: “Adding more countries to the green list – including destinations such as the Balearic Islands and Malta, which are popular with holidaymakers using East Midlands Airport – is a step in the right direction for opening up international travel.

“However, with infection rates falling across many destinations, and the number of adults having received two vaccinations continuing to grow, today’s delayed announcement doesn’t go far enough.

“We welcome the Transport Secretary’s announcement that fully vaccinated people will soon not have to isolate when returning from amber list countries, and would urge the Government to introduce this policy at the earliest opportunity.

“This would provide the certainty needed by consumers, businesses and the aviation industry – which has received no tailored support package throughout the pandemic – that international travel would be here to stay, and not be turned on and off like a tap.

“In the meantime, Government should keep these lists under constant review rather than waiting until set dates to make updates. After months of confusion and frustration among the travel sector and its customers, Government must be transparent about the criteria by which decisions are made – and must be as swift at adding countries as it is at removing them if the industry is to salvage any kind of a summer.”

Matthew Fell, CBI chief UK policy director, said: “While welcome, these limited movements on green list countries won’t be enough to salvage the summer season for the international travel sector.

“International connectivity extends far beyond tourism and underpins our whole economy. The UK’s successful vaccine rollout means we should be in the vanguard of safely restarting international travel. Other countries are already pressing ahead with enabling travel for the fully vaccinated. The government must show more urgency to implement a truly risk-based system.

“Further, urgent support is now needed for the travel industry to prevent the loss of skilled jobs and protect the UK’s long-term global competitiveness.”

The Unite union’s assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: “It is becoming increasingly clear that due to policies in the UK and in destination counties international air travel is not going to return to anything like normal this year.

“As a consequence, the government must stop prevaricating and swiftly introduce measures which will ensure that the UK still has a functioning aviation industry in the future.

“Aviation is unique as in order to operate it needs the government in both departure and destination countries to allow travel to take place.

“As a minimum the government must extend the furlough scheme until spring next year to protect aviation jobs.

“If they fail to do so then tens of thousands of workers will be at risk of losing their jobs when the CJRS ends.

“The traffic light system is simply not fit for purpose; it is impossible for a multi-billion pound industry to make plans for the future when the rug can be pulled from under them every three weeks.

“Aviation workers from all parts of the UK are nervously waiting to learn if the government is prepared to provide short term support to guarantee their long-term future.

“Other European countries have provided far more support to maintain their aviation sector during the pandemic and are set to continue to preserve jobs until international air travel can return to a level of normalcy. The UK government must be prepared to do the same.”

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