LONDON – British tourists can now fly overseas as Covid restrictions are relaxed, but only to a limited number of destinations – something the tourism industry is looking to change.
From Monday, people in England and Scotland can fly to a list of 12 countries on the so-called green list without having to be quarantined on their return. This represents a massive change as vacationing abroad has been illegal for months. The advice to people in Wales is to travel only for essential reasons, although travel is no longer prohibited by law either.
The changes in policy have been welcomed by the tourism industry, eager to open up to business after a challenging period during the pandemic. Still, the sector hopes the government will lift mandatory quarantines on more targets.
“It’s a cautious return to international travel. We would have liked to see more countries on the green list,” Gatwick Airport CEO Stewart Wingate told CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick on Monday.
The green list represents the group of nations that tourists can visit on their return without quarantine. Currently the list includes countries such as Portugal, Israel, Singapore, Iceland and Gibraltar and it is checked every three weeks.
Tourists arriving from one of these destinations must present a passenger search form before boarding the return flight, take a Covid test, and book and pay for another Covid test on the second day after their arrival.
However, visits to countries on the so-called Amber List require self-isolation for a period of 10 days, and trips to countries on the Red List require a 10-day quarantine in a hotel.
Sunny European travel destinations, often chosen as vacation spots by British tourists, such as France, Spain, and Italy Greece are currently on the amber list.
“From an industry perspective, we would like our government to continually review the status of the countries, particularly places like the Spanish Islands, the Greek Islands and in due course in the coming weeks some of the big destinations we serve from Gatwick like Spain Italy, Greece and the US will gradually be put on the green list if it is safe to do so, “Wingate said on Monday.
The CEO of the low-cost airline Ryanair repeated this assessment.
“We look forward to Spain, Italy and Greece being put on the UK green list in the next few weeks and I think this will certainly accelerate the recovery in booking short haul UK to Europe travel through July, August and September” Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary told CNBC on Monday.
The heads of British Airways and Heathrow Airport also urged the UK government to allow tourists to visit more European destinations and the US without being quarantined on their return, Reuters reported.
“It is very important for many of these airlines that the green list is expanded,” said Ruhell Amin, equity analyst at William O’Neil and Co, told CNBC’s Street Signs Monday, and expects more countries to be added in the coming weeks .
Inventories in the European travel and leisure sector fell by more than 2% on Monday.
Despite the ongoing easing of travel restrictions in the UK, there remains a lot of uncertainty for the ailing industry as quarantine rules are under review and the future of the pandemic remains unclear. Although vaccinations against the coronavirus have gained momentum in the UK and the European Union, There are concerns about new variants – especially the one identified for the first time in India – and its possible effects.
On Sunday, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC that there was “growing confidence” that Covid vaccines would work against the variant identified in India. However, he added that the government has yet to confirm whether all social restrictions will be lifted on June 21 as originally planned.