Business leaders unite to urge Boris to restart international travel

Northern business leaders have joined the UK business community to urge Boris Johnson to reopen international travel.

The open letter, initiated by Cities Restart, a start-up venture dedicated to helping UK cities restart during and after COVID-19, incudes signatories from Chris Oglesby, CEO Bruntwood and Chair of United City and Emma Degg, CEO, North West Business Leadership Team.

Derek Ray-Hill, managing director of Cities Restart, says: “Our letter urges the PM to continue to reopen and take a sensible approach to restarting international travel. This requires more testing, vaccine certification and the ability to use the NHS app as a verification platform.

“We have the lowest rate of office occupancy in the G7 during this pandemic and the worst recession. We also have the highest death rate, even outpacing the United States. Other large economies have managed to keep going whilst also dealing with this pandemic.

“Now – for the first time – the UK is ahead. Lockdown has done the job. Coronavirus is under control. We must use the advantage of our world-beating vaccine programme to reopen.”

The pressure from business leaders comes ahead of the reinstated government Global Travel Taskforce due to report in April on ways of reopening international travel from May 17 at the earliest as part of Boris Johnson’s roadmap to relax Covid-19 restrictions.

In the letter, which has also been signed by Peter Norris, Chair, Virgin, Craig Beaumont, Chief of External Affairs, Federation of Small Business, Kate Nicholls, CEO, UK Hospitality, it urges the Global Travel Taskforce to adopt a “pragmatic risk-based approach to international travel restrictions, that combines a safe countries list with testing and vaccine certification to create a form of health passport.”

It continues: “We can emerge from this crisis having delivered the most successful vaccination programme in the G7 and reopening in a way that avoids increased spread. This will send a powerful message to our friends around the World that the United Kingdom remains an international powerhouse, punching about above our weight economically, politically and culturally.”

The letter has been signed as the trade body for the aviation industry, Airlines UK, warned delaying travel’s return until September will cost the UK £3bn in lost tourism spend and put 500,000 jobs at risk.

Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade said: “For many of us, aviation is associated with a holiday or much needed break.

“However, this new report demonstrates just how vital the UK’s air links are to our economic prosperity, be it for British exporters, the hospitality sector or companies with an international footprint.

“The data refutes the claim that keeping aviation shut down, or delaying restart beyond the summer, is a price worth paying – with each day planes are grounded costing tens of millions of pounds and putting thousands of jobs at risk.

“The priority now is clear; ensuring a durable framework for a risk-based approach to reopening air travel from 17 May.”