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Published on Friday, September 11, 2020

'This chaos could be avoided if only the Govt would listen': WTTC

Consumer confidence will continue to sink as long as the government retains its haphazard quarantine system, industry leaders have said.

In a now-familiar pattern where updated quarantine rules are swiftly followed by industry angst, the World Travel and Tourism Council said it 'shares the dismay' of UK holidaymakers.

"This depressingly familiar situation is a major body blow to consumer confidence to travel," WTTC President & CEO Gloria Guevara said. "All of this chaos could be avoided if only the government took decisive action to ditch damaging and disruptive quarantines in favour of a comprehensive, fast and cost-effective airport test and trace programme.

"Until then, the disruption will continue, and the economic recovery will become ever harder to restart."

In the aftermath of the decision, TUI UK cancelled all holidays to Faro up to and including September 24. 

Leaders again pleaded for testing to be introduced after mainland Portugal and Hungary were added to the list of countries requiring 14-days' quarantine on return.

The Azores and Madeira remained on the safe travel list.

Advantage Travel Partnerships Chief Executive Julia Lo Bue questioned the criteria being used to decide which nations become out of bounds.

"With Portugal now being removed from the UK Government's 'safe list' of travel corridors, it does raise a question over what criteria the UK Government is using to remove destinations given the country's rates of infection being over the threshold this time last week," she said.

"This week alone we have seen further announcements of redundancies in the sector and travel businesses failing and we cannot continue with this stop/start approach to destinations being added and removed from the list.

"We are looking at 39,000 jobs lost or at risk and that is before the majority of businesses have entered redundancy consultation.

We urgently need sector-specific support and must secure the Government's backing on testing at ports of entry.

"Testing on arrival and then again five days later would help to reduce the length of quarantine which is causing so much anxiety for consumers and ultimately cancellations of bookings and loss of revenue for travel agents."

ABTA said every country, mainland or island removed from the travel corridor 'lessens the ability of travel businesses to operate and increases the necessity for the Government to provide tailored industry support'.

"There are travel agents and tour operators based in every region of the UK that are viable businesses, which are unable to trade because of the measures to control the pandemic, and tens of thousands of livelihoods are at risk until we are able to move beyond widespread travel restrictions," a spokesperson said.

WTTC leader Guevara added: "The World Travel & Tourism Council shares the dismay and severe disappointment of thousands of British holidaymakers and the Travel & Tourism sector as Portugal once again goes back on the quarantine list.

"Taking Portugal and Hungary off the exception list has left families and in a race against time to find flights and get home to avoid going into 14-days of isolation or cancel their already made plans.

"While Madeira and the Azores will be excluded from the quarantine list under the government's new 'island policy', it will come as little comfort to the vast majority of holidaymakers, and the embattled Travel & Tourism sector, which has seen the 2020 summer holiday season effectively crushed.

Editor of Which? Travel Rory Boland said: "While holidaymakers may be more acutely aware of any risks involved with travelling abroad, this sudden U-turn adds further confusion as to how these decisions are made.

"The last-minute approach continues to ruin holiday plans, with often little prospect of getting any money back as airlines won't issue refunds or offer vouchers, and in some cases aren't even offering free rebooking. Travellers already abroad are also likely to be extorted for additional airfares as they rush to get home before the restrictions come into effect.

"It's obvious that the current travel corridor system is not working for passengers, and becoming completely detrimental to the already dwindling trust in the sector."

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