The travel industry has called for ministers to crack down on Covid traffic light testing rules in the UK and PCR testing as the figures reveal their devastating impact on overseas flights and peak holiday booking.
Bookings for holidays abroad this summer fell by 83% in 2019, according to data from the Travel Association (ABTA), with half of travel companies not reporting increased bookings compared to last summer, despite the vaccination program .
ABTA said thousands of jobs in the sector were at risk, with seven in 10 companies planning to make redundancies once the holiday was over.
The Heathrow and Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which both reported major declines in summer traffic, joined the calls for a simplified two-tier system for international travel. Central London Airport was the busiest in Europe, but now ranks 10th after a 71% drop in August traffic compared to pre-pandemic levels. The number of MAG passengers at Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands airports fell 68% in August 2019.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said at the weekend that he wanted to cancel PCR tests for fully vaccinated arrivals as soon as possible, following reports that officials were working on plans to allow the change, potentially in time for half term vacation bookings.
However, easyJet said it had not yet seen any noticeable impact of Javids’ announcement on bookings. A spokesman said the airline would continue to argue for the cancellation of all tests for vaccinated travelers visiting low-risk countries.
The government will review the much-criticized traffic light system by October 1st, while the holiday scheme is expected to end at the end of this month.
Mark Tanzer, ABTA chief executive, said demand had waned during the summer travel trade: While our European neighbors traveled freely and safely, the British were subjected to costly measures that have been a hindrance to government. the damage its policies are doing to the UK travel industry and the impact they will have on the wider economic recovery.
He said the awful summer season meant the holiday scheme had to be extended to travel businesses beyond September.
Heathrow said the UK traffic light system was a bigger thing in Europe in terms of limiting it, giving rivals a competitive edge. Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye said: “If ministers fail to take advantage of this opportunity to improve travel rules, then the UK will be far behind as trade and tourism will increasingly bypass the UK.
The MAG cited government data showing that less than 30% of positive PCR test results are ever listed to identify variants. Its chief executive, Charlie Cornish, said the system was confusing for customers and puts unnecessary obstacles in their way of booking trips. The impact it has on our sector is clear.
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