Our CEO, Sonia Davies, shares her views following the UK Government’s latest traffic light update.
Well, they kept us waiting…But it was a step forward.
Finally, the Government has implemented its islands strategy they have talked about previously, whereby they look at the data of the mainland vs. any islands separately. The addition of the Balearics, Madeira and many of the Caribbean islands is a definite step in the right direction and already we have seen massive demand for these few destinations. But this step just doesn’t go far enough.
These new Green/Green watch list destinations align with the FCDO advice which has also been lifted. However, there are still other destinations such as some of the Greek Islands where FCDO advice has been lifted, but they remain on the amber list. Other big hitting destinations such as mainland Spain, Portugal and Greece which are already welcoming UK visitors remain amber so we will all be looking for the government to pay heed to the science and remove quarantine requirements for the fully vaccinated at the next update. This is the game changer that will help the travel and tourism industry get firmly back on track.
For many in the travel industry, yesterday’s announcement will be seen as positive, but momentum now needs to build, and we are already waiting for the next update which is now not expected before 19 July.
The Government has indicated that they intend to remove quarantine for those fully vaccinated returning to the UK from amber destinations. Whilst this is great news if it does indeed come to pass, but we need more clarity on when the further details will come. And if implemented, why this wouldn’t be extended to non-residents who are fully vaccinated. This would help restart business investment, business travel and tourism to the capital cities which are heavily reliant on international visitors.
What does this mean for consumers and the wider industry?
For those who have travel booked in the short-term to the destinations which have just been added to the green list, there will be joy and relief that they can travel relatively easily with testing but no quarantine on return. And for those who have been eagerly awaiting the update before taking a trip to a green destination, there are at least more destinations to choose from. The Balearics are a significant destination for UK tourists so this is a big win. There will be huge relief there that one of their main markets will be visiting soon, bringing much needed tourism income into hotels, restaurants, cafes etc who have been incredibly hard hit by the pandemic. Airlines have already increased capacity in response to the anticipated demand.
The Caribbean is also a key destination for the UK market, but we are heading into their lower season, and we have seen over the last few months airlines significantly reduce their schedules to the Caribbean. This has caused many people’s holiday plans to be cancelled so for the addition of these islands to the Green list to have a meaningful benefit to the industry will be heavily dependent on airlines, as the UK is still not allowed to transit through the US.
However, the good news comes with caveats as the announcement includes the Green Watch List subsection which covers all the newly announced green destinations but Malta – so people will be keeping a close eye on what actually happens, as the Government didn’t give Portugal that luxury. But perhaps the football played a part here.
Here at Scott Dunn, we continue to work tirelessly to support our guests through this ever-changing, complex landscape. We are keeping track of all the current restrictions in each country around the world and what you need to do to travel safely and successfully. This is one of the huge advantages in organising a trip with a tour operator or travel agent versus booking directly. Since the ban on non-essential travel was lifted, we have had guests head to many countries including Amber destinations. The reality of travelling Amber is far easier than it is made out to be – yes, you need to be organised, but the in-destination experience far outweighs the additional admin and quarantine currently required.
But this isn’t just about holidays – it is also about visiting friends and families, reigniting business investment, and about jobs and taxes – restarting the UK economy. Time is precious and our lives continue to be put on hold – we need to be able to plan for when we can see loved ones again. We need to use the science and make a balanced decision to give people the choice to travel more freely and more widely again.