If our time during the coronavirus pandemic was a flight, it would surely be a long-haul one, with the “Fasten your seatbelt” sign on as we go through some turbulence, one after another. Everyone has suffered during this time – if not financially, mentally, and some would also claim physically due to the restricted time exercising and the closing of the gyms. The tourism industry is one of the most affected since many airports were closed as countries shut their borders to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. Over a year later, we’ve received a massive boost with the arrival of the vaccine. Countries started rolling out their vaccination programmes hoping to resume the normal life once again and strengthen the economy. In order to do so, many countries are looking to start welcoming tourists again – and many tourists are looking forward to getting on a plane once again, after a long time. It’s been a while!
The “green list”
However, the weekend was dominated by concerns about British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the UK’s announced “green list”. The talking point was UK government’s ‘traffic light’ system for travel, announced on Friday 7th May. In short, twelve destinations have been put on a green travel list for people in England. This means that upon arrival from these countries, you will not have to self-quarantine. The list includes Portugal, Gibraltar, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Iceland and the Faroe Islands, as well as some small remote islands that are British Overseas Territories. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary described the UK’s approach as “necessarily cautious”.
In addition, the UK also published an “amber list”, which includes the countries “you should not be travelling to these places right now”. Popular UK holiday destinations such as Spain, France, Italy and Greece were placed in this list. If travellers decide to travel to any of the listed countries must take two post-arrival tests and self-quarantine for 10 days. In case you test negative, your quarantine would be shortened to five days. Furthermore, those returning from countries that are placed on the “red list” which include Brazil, India, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates must stay in a quarantine hotel for 11 nights which would cost £1,750.
If you’re planning on travelling to the UK, you must complete a passenger locator form, take a COVID-19 test in the 72 hours before your departure back, and book a COVID-19 test to take on or before day two after you arrive. Shapps noted that all four of the UK’s chief medical officers agreed on the principles behind the traffic light system, but Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not spoken about their travel restrictions yet.
The UK’s corporate travel sector had mixed feelings about the published list but affirmed that they will work with the government “on its phased re-opening of further travel routes to these crucial business travel destinations.” American Express GBT Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Crawley stated that he was disappointed to see that the U.S. was not included. “Keeping US-UK travel closed is detrimental to the economic recoveries in both countries and prevents the UK from engaging with its biggest trading partner outside of Europe,” he said. Similarly, Clive Wratten, CEO Business Travel Association said that “key business destinations with low infection and high vaccination rates are not included such as the US and the UAE.” The UK government was criticised as the countries on the green list aim at leisure travel. Managing Director Global Travel Management, Scott Pawley said, “Companies need to travel to some destinations not on the green list, for example the US and UAE. These are two of the destinations we would like to see shifted to the green list as soon as safely possible.”
Despite facing some backlash, Prime Minister Johnson said that the UK will not enlarge travel green list rapidly. “I don’t expect that we’ll be adding to it very rapidly and indeed we will be maintaining a very, very tough border regime for the foreseeable future.” However, countries and territories can still move between the green, amber and red lists. The public health will be advising the UK government every three weeks to help review the countries and the green list. The next list update is on 7 June.
UK airlines and airports
The UK government found more pressure from UK airlines to add more European destinations and the U.S. to the green list. The Heathrow chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, explained that he was “surprised and disappointed” that the Caribbean, France, Greece and Spain weren’t included in the list. “This is now getting urgent … if there is no getaway in July and August, many companies will not make it to next year.” He added on to say that there is a way to help the public health as well as the economy, and the government doesn’t necessarily have to choose between one and the other. “We can do both, applying the government’s risk-based approach.” In addition, Sean Doyle, BA’s chief executive sustained that “America should be on the green list.” EasyJet chief executive, Johan Lundgren noted that most countries in Europe could be included in the green list. However, the restart of leisure travel was praised by Gatwick airport chief executive, Stewart Wingate. It’s an important day for us, and important first step, and very much we’re looking forward to seeing more countries added to the green list in the weeks ahead.”
Are you travelling?
Airports have reported a significant increase of passengers, despite the Heathrow airport expecting less than 15% of pre-pandemic traffic by the end of May. But if you don’t feel comfortable travelling, don’t feel pressured to do so! Look out for yourself, your health and your money. There are a number of things that aren’t clear yet, so the best thing to do might be to just wait. On the other hand, if you can’t wait to get back on a plane, enjoy your time abroad but make sure to stay safe. If you’re planning to travel, it is suggested to book a package holiday so that if the country you’re travelling to gets moved into another list or is warned against by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) you would have a better chance of getting your money back.