COVID-19: Delighted travel agencies see surge in bookings after rules eased – amid concerns raised over testing and public health protection | UK News
Travel agencies have seen a sharp increase in bookings as the government announced that the current red, orange and green country traffic light system would be removed for England from October 4.
Thomas Cook chief executive said customers are “already booking en masse” following the last trip changes, with the vacation company having its second best day of bookings alone this year on Friday and expecting its “best weekend yet”.
Airlines, including British Airways and easyJet, have also welcomed the major relaxation of travel rules for people entering and leaving England – but have increased pressure on the government to remove test requirements absolutely.
On Friday, Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps announced that starting in early October, anything not on the red list will be considered green and clear for to travel – with the orange list to be deleted.
From that date as well, fully vaccinated travelers will no longer need to take pre-departure tests to travel to England from countries not on the Red List.
Then, from the end of October, they will be able to replace their day-two PCR test with a cheaper side flow test.
Those not vaccinated will still have to pay for PCR testing.
Labor shadow secretary of transport Jim McMahon has raised concerns about how surveillance for coronavirus variants will continue as part of plans to remove PCR testing requirements.
“PCR tests play a crucial role in identifying variants of concern and ministers must now explain in detail how they will continue this surveillance – including if they plan to increase the sequencing of the tests – to ensure that we do not let’s not see a repeat of the failures that allowed the Delta variant to spread rapidly across the country, âMcMahon said.
The Scottish government has said it will ditch the traffic light system but will not follow England in removing the requirement for pre-departure testing for fully vaccinated people returning from countries not on the red list.
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said there were “concerns” that it “would weaken our ability to protect the public health of Scottish communities”.
Scotland also won’t copy England using side flow testing on day two at this point.
The Welsh government has said it will consider the changes proposed by the UK government, but Health and Social Services Minister Eluned Morgan warned they could “weaken the line of defense against importing infections and increase the opportunities for new infections and new variants to enter the UK and Wales “.
Both administrations said they would reflect changes to Red List destinations.
Travel changes will take effect at the end of the school holidays, giving families more freedom to travel abroad during the holidays and before Christmas.
Those returning from the red countries will still need to self-quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days.
In response to the changes, which Shapps said will create a “simpler system,” Thomas Cook boss Alan French said it was “a boost for both the travel industry and for families across the country who crave late summer sunshine.
Mr French said bookings for the October semester “were up over 200% from August,” adding: “Based on our bookings already today, I would expect that this weekend is the most important of the year as people take advantage of the great deals on offer, the easier new rules on testing and the simplified system for international travel. “
TUI UK Managing Director Andrew Flintham agreed the latest travel changes are “a positive step forward” and “will reassure customers who wish to book in advance”.
Mr Flintham added: “We have already seen an increase in bookings for Turkey in October and a sharp increase in bookings for those looking to enjoy the winter sun.”
Online travel agency Skyscanner said it saw a 133% increase in traffic within 30 minutes of Mr Shapps’ announcement, as there were “huge increases” in searches for destinations such as Turkey and the Maldives ahead of Friday’s news.
Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss said the “expected simplification” of government rules for international travel “will significantly boost consumer confidence and the UK’s economic recovery.”
But others have even suggested the changes don’t go far enough.
Some, including Karen Dee, Managing Director of the Airport Operators Association, noted that England has “a more expensive approach to travel than our European competitors”.
Ms Dee said the change was “a good step forward”, but added: “Ultimately we need to get back to a situation similar to before the pandemic, where people can travel without further testing. or forms to fill in. UK and decentralized governments should aim for this as soon as it is safe to do so. “
Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye added: “This simplification of travel rules is welcome for businesses and families across the country, but the decision to require fully vaccinated passengers to spend More expensive private lateral flow testing is an unnecessary barrier to travel, which keeps the UK out of step with the rest of the EU. “
Likewise, easyJet chief Johan Lundgren said the announcement was “welcome”, but added: “However, travelers who are vaccinated and those from low-risk countries will still need to take an unnecessary test after arriving at the airport. UK, making travel less affordable for everyone. “
British Airways chief executive and chairman Sean Doyle also urged the government to go further and remove all testing requirements for fully vaccinated travelers.
Meanwhile, Stewart Wingate, managing director of Gatwick Airport, said passenger tracking forms should also be scrapped.