Travel chief urges Holyrood to follow Westminster lead
Travel sector workers staged a protest last month (pic: Terry Murden)
A Scottish travel leader has urged the Scottish government to follow Westminster’s lead by opening up travel corridors and speeding up the certification system.
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps this morning confirmed that from 19 July UK residents who are fully vaccinated will no longer have to self-isolate when they return to England.
They will still have to take a pre-departure test three days before they leave and a PCR test on or before day two. He said this applies to people 14 days after their second jab.
He said they will no longer be required to take a day eight test, meaning the requirements for green and amber list countries are now the same.
Joanne Dooey, president of The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA), the professional body for travel agents and the travel sector, said the Scottish Government needed to play catch up with the new travel guidelines and certification technology.
Grant Shapps: changes to isolation
“It would be churlish not to say that any moves towards the reopening of travel regulations are welcome, however, Scottish travel agents and travellers still need to know that Scotland will swiftly follow suit,” she said.
“We continue to raise the question of travel certification and how Scotland will deliver a scheme to allow the public to provide proof of vaccination status in order to fly to other countries.
“Currently English travellers can use the NHS app to prove their certification status and this integrates with the EU Digital COVID Certificate (EUDCC) which gives digital proof of a traveller’s vaccination, testing and recovered from COVID-19 status.
“The Scottish Government needs, as a matter of urgency, to tell us what stage, if any, the development of a Scottish app is at. Currently, Scots who wish to travel, have to apply for a paper certificate and we need to be operating at the same level as the other countries which have developed and are already using this technology.
“While Scotland faces more expensive testing that in other UK nations, we persist in lobbying for the cost of testing to be at least equitable across the UK.
“However, we look at it, 2021 has followed 2020 as a second catastrophic year for our industry and the news last week that Tui has withdrawn from its Scottish base and also is cancelling a raft of holidays to some of the most popular holiday destinations up to 31 July only supports this view.”
Ms Dooey added that travel agents, who staged a demonstration outside the Scottish parliament last month, are still receiving no support.
“Travel agents have been forced to remain open for 16 months now to help their clients rebook – sometimes for the sixth or seventh time – yet are still receiving no income,” she said.
“There is little, if any, customer confidence in travel at the moment and whole sector needs the Scottish Government to get behind a restart to international travel and boost the Scottish economy.
“If the Prime Minister’s strategy is, from 19 July, to remove legal curbs on people’s behaviour and to end restrictions and allowing people to make their own decisions, then surely people should be allowed to travel internationally with more choice.
“We remain in consultation with the Scottish Government to outline the way forward for Scottish travel and the role testing and vaccination certification will play in this.”
Despite his decision, Mr Shapps did not escape criticism. Joss Croft, CEO of UKinbound said, “Whilst this may be welcome news for Brits travelling overseas this summer, this decision does nothing for the UK’s inbound visitor economy.
“By keeping Britain closed, we are losing £70m a day in exports, businesses are on the brink, our cities remain empty and viable businesses are prevented from even beginning their recovery.
“As we approach the 19th, our inbound visitor economy remains neglected and forgotten by the Government, far from talk of freedom this decision risks being the final nail in the coffin for an industry that will be vital to our national recovery.
“The UK’s fifth largest export sector is dying on its knees, and the government must provide more support, including furlough extension and targeted grants, whilst rapidly implementing vaccination certification reciprocity for inbound, as it has done for outbound.”
Stewart Wingate, CEO, Gatwick Airport, said: ” We are approaching a crucial time for our industry and we urge Government to remove other barriers inhibiting international travel, including the need for costly PCR tests for those who have been double vaccinated.
“At the very least, if tests are required, they should be the more readily available lateral flow tests or PCR tests carried out free of charge at an NHS facility, as has been done in France.
“We would also urge Government to urgently follow the lead of EU counties to ensure that internationally agreed, coordinated protocols are in place so that processes when crossing borders to other countries are as smooth as possible, with no unnecessary queues, checks or costs.”