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Published on Friday, January 8, 2021

Use our expertise to map travel strategy, Advantage urges ministers

Advantage Travel Partnership has called on the government to use the expertise of industry professionals to draw up a coherent plan to oversee the resumption of international travel.

Chief Executive Julia Lo Bue-Said urged ministers to work collaboratively with the industry to avoid what she called the current 'piecemeal' approach.

The comments came as the government made a negative Covid test a condition of entry into England for foreign nationals. Scotland also adopted the measure with Wales and Northern Ireland likely to follow.

Lo Bue-Said accused the government of ignoring travel experts.

"We understand why currently inbound testing is necessary. However we, along with the rest of the industry, have been lobbying for pre-departure testing for some time across the board," Lo Bue-Said remarked.

"We are seeing yet again, what appears to be a knee jerk reaction from government. This can only be described as piecemeal policy which is unhelpful and causes further stress and strain on agents.

"We need a new approach which must include consultation with industry experts who are in the best position to advise on not only logistics, but the short-term impact and long-term opportunity to allow business owners to plan when it is the right time to allow people to travel safely again. 

"We urgently urge the government to commit to a collaborative approach, and set out a timeframe so that travel agents as well as consumers understand the ramifications when booking a future trip.

"We, as experts, are at the government's disposal and we would expect to be engaged moving forward. It's beyond comprehension why ministers from all departments continue to ignore the experts on their doorstep."

Responding to the new requirements for international travellers, the Scottish Passenger Agents' Association welcomed the move but said the quarantine period - which will still be enforced - 'needs to be addressed'.

President Joanne Dooey said: "Our members have been lobbying for a robust, effective testing regime and this will undoubtedly be an excellent first step towards this and will hopefully help to prevent the transmission of any new variants of the virus within the UK.

"However, this new test requirement does not remove the mandatory 10-day self-isolation period for all international travellers arriving here from countries without a travel corridor.

"What world travel needs is agreed international standards and protocols. There needs to be a list of internationally acceptable tests which can be adopted.

"At the moment there's no indication from the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps of which tests are valid and acceptable.

"Importantly, over and above this short-term measure, the travel industry needs a comprehensive, internationally-agreed, strategic plan for how we can return to travelling both in the period before the vaccination programme is complete and in the period beyond this.

"We need to see a blueprint for how we return to travelling for business and leisure reasons because currently the sector has been devastated and is in need of significant support.  The Scottish economy needs its travel industry in order to drive economic recovery."

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