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Friday, May 20, 2022

UK travel restrictions ’caused monumental economic damage to the industry’

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A silent Heathrow airport (AFP / Getty)

Following the announcement that all Covid travel restrictions to reach the UK will be lifted from Friday, senior industry figures expressed astonishment that the country’s rules continued for so long, with one describing them as “ill-thought-out messes of government policies”. .

Just three months ago, the UK had the most onerous and costly Covid rules for travelers in Europe.

Tourists who had returned from South Africa to the UK were still buried in hotel quarantine. Ministers insisted that keeping people in rooms for 11 nights was essential to protect the UK against the spread of the Omicron variant.

Even fully vaccinated and boosted new arrivals from abroad were required to self-isolate until they received a negative PCR test.

However, on Monday, Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps announced that there was no longer a need for restrictions of any kind.

He said: “The UK is leading the world in lifting all remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions, and today’s announcement is a testament to the hard work everyone in this country has done to get the vaccine in place and protect themselves.” mutually.

“I said we would not keep travel measures in place any longer than necessary, which we are delivering today, bringing more welcome news and greater freedom for travelers ahead of the Easter holidays.

“I look forward to continuing to work with the travel industry and partners around the world to keep international travel moving.”

But some travel industry leaders contacted by the independent questioned the transport secretary’s claims about the success of the UK’s Covid travel policies.

The chief executive of a UK airline said UK-imposed travel restrictions “had slowed the spread of Covid and its variants in just a couple of days”.

At the same time, they said, the frequently changing, complex and inconsistent regulations had caused “monumental economic damage to the industry that will take years to recover from.”

Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency, has spent two years of his life campaigning against such restrictions.

He says: “The ill-thought-out chaos of government policies created enormous financial and emotional distress for consumers; set travel companies back by years; led to heart attacks and suicides among some distraught employees and directors; and left the UK a laughingstock on the world stage.”

Mr. Charles gives the example of the “amber plus” rating added to the stoplight list of destinations, a mandatory quarantine category created especially for France in July 2021 due to concerns about infections on the distant island of Réunion, which was curiously exempt from the self-isolation rule.

“Frankly, the ministers have achieved nothing more than crippling the travel and tourism industry and reducing our aviation industry to a shadow of its former self,” said Charles.

But Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO of the Advantage Travel Partnership, welcomed the news, saying: “The removal of the last remaining Covid measures for international travel is a huge watershed moment and allows the industry to start taking on the transcendental challenge of rebuilding itself.”

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