Travel resumes

Scots left waiting as England gets holiday go-ahead

business travel

Travel plans have been outlined

Holidaymakers and the travel industry were today offered the first confirmation for reopening the sector amid continuing concern over the lack of detail.

Foreign travel will resume from 17 May, though the “traffic light” grading system based on Covid risk, is only confirmed for England. Travel sector leaders hope Scotland will follow suit after meetings next week.

Passengers will have to take Covid tests before leaving and on returning – even from low-risk “green” countries.

There will also be a watch list for countries that could go from green to amber.

The travel industry has expressed concern about the government’s testing requirements, warning it could make holidays unaffordable for many travellers.

Holiday and travel stocks fell as the industry and consumers were confused over testing and how the traffic light system will work.

Danni Hewson, finance analyst at AJ Bell said there were market falls for TUI, On the Beach, Jet 2 and IAG following the publication of the government’s report into foreign travel.

See more: today’s market movers and comment

Holiday group Jet2 cancelled all of its flights and holidays until 23 June, blaming the government for the “uncertainty” surrounding the travel industry.

In a statement, chief executive Steve Heapy said: “We are trying to run a business so that we can take customers away, but we need the Government to provide us with clarity to achieve this.”

Mr Heapy added: “After several weeks exploring how to restart international travel, with substantial assistance and input from the industry, the framework lacks any rigorous detail about how to get international travel going again. In fact, the framework is virtually the same as six months ago.

“Following the publication of the framework today, we still do not know when we can start to fly, where we can fly to and the availability and cost of testing. Rather than answering questions, the framework leaves everyone asking more.”

However, the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA), the professional body for travel agents and the travel sector in Scotland, welcomed the initial outline of the Global Travel Task Force plan.

“For the first time, the message from the [UK] government Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is a positive one,” it said in a statement.

“There is a roadmap for how international travel will be restarted and travellers are being given some detail around what travelling abroad will look like.

“The SPAA has always lobbied for a four nations approach to international travel as we believe this is essential to facilitating any proposed new systems for the UK.

“The advice being given today is for travellers to and from England, and in our meetings next week with the Scottish Aviation Working Group we will be urging that Scotland follows suit.”

Jacqueline Dobson, president of Barrhead Travel, shared the call for a clear statement from the Scottish Government,.

“A clear roadmap out of the pandemic will be vital to restoring traveller confidence. However, it remains unclear whether this approach will be supported by the Scottish Government and we urgently require clarity on that point as a matter of priority,” she said.

“Anything other than a four nations approach risks disadvantaging Scottish business and leaving Scottish travellers facing a choice between no travel or travelling from an English airport.”

Jacqueline Dobson

Jacqueline Dobson: four nations approach vital

The government has not yet said which countries will be green, amber or red but said it would do so by early May. However, it means trips for the time being cannot be booked with any certainty.

The SPAA said it has some initial reservations on cost and availability of testing, the traffic light system and how vaccination passes will work.

“Our chief concern is the requirement for a PCR test and the costs associated with this,” it said.

“PCR testing is currently an expensive option which will place financial strain on families who travel together.

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“We would like to see the cost of this driven down or alternative forms of acceptable testing such as antigen and lateral flow.

“We’re very keen to hear how the digital vaccination pass will work in practice. With just over a month to go until ‘take off’ travel agents and travellers do need to know how this will be implemented and what this will mean for anyone in their group who has not been vaccinated.”

The traffic light system will grade foreign destinations as being:

  • Green: Passengers will not need to quarantine on return, but must take a pre-departure test, as well as a PCR test on return to the UK
  • Amber: Travellers will need to quarantine for 10 days, as well as taking a pre-departure test and two PCR tests
  • Red: Passengers will have to pay for a 10-day stay in a managed quarantine hotel, as well as a pre-departure test and two PCR tests

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