The announcement by the Transport Secretary that fully vaccinated UK residents can return to England from Amber list countries, without the need to quarantine, is the most positive news the UK travel industry has received since the start of Covid-19.
Travel is the UK industry arguably most affected by Covid-19. Companies have seen revenues plunge to a small fraction of normal levels, leading to tens of thousands of redundancies and scores of company failures.
When many think of the travel industry, they often look first at its biggest and most visible parts – airlines and airports. They are integral elements but the industry is a complex eco-system where a variety of businesses make an essential contribution. From travel agents, tour operators and travel management companies, to hotels, train operators, car rental firms and cruise lines – to name but a few.
Yesterday’s announcement is a vital shot in the arm for the industry as a whole. But it’s just the start, and there’s much more to do.
At the moment, it just covers the rules about return travel to England, and says nothing of restrictions in place in overseas destinations. It’s crucial the Government now works with other countries to quickly agree international standards that enable fully vaccinated travellers from all nations to travel without restriction.
Only then can we accelerate the return of travel across the Atlantic and to many other key destinations and, equally importantly, stimulate vitally needed inbound visits to the UK.
In addition, the announcement only covers UK residents returning to England, rather than all parts of the United Kingdom. A joined-up approach across all four regions is critical for both the industry and the consumers it serves.
But let’s be clear, this week’s announcement is desperately needed and a definite step in the right direction.
The travel experience may be different now – from mask wearing to varying service levels - but at least it will be possible to travel from the UK to many more destinations without UK Government quarantine restrictions.
This means that families can escape overseas on their summer holidays, people can travel abroad to visit loved ones, and British business can start to travel again and resume its place on the global trading stage.
It’s a step on the road to some normality. Many additional steps are needed but, compared to the last 18 months, this has been a good week for travel.
Let’s hope it’s the first of many.
Written By: Charlie Hampton