Travel rule changes should boost bookings

Sunseekers are expected to begin snapping up holiday deals after the UK Government relaxed its travel testing policies.

The move is also expected to kickstart the winter sports holiday season which has been badly hit by the uncertainty caused by regulations linked to the spread of the Omicron variant.

The UK Government has confirmed that pre-departure tests for those travelling to England would be scrapped from Friday and that self-isolation and PCR tests on arrival would be replaced by cheaper lateral flow tests for fully-vaccinated travellers.

Travel bosses now hope customers will respond by cementing holiday plans at a crucial time for the industry, when most summer breaks are normally booked.

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of the industry body Airlines UK, said it would be a “massive boost” for the sector at a “critical” time of the year.

“People will now be able to book knowing that – for the fully vaccinated – all emergency testing restrictions have been removed. Today marks an important step towards learning to live alongside the virus, helping passengers and the travel sector look ahead to what will be an all-important spring and summer season.”

Charlie Cornish, chief executive of Manchester Airports Group, added: “The announcement is very positive news and will help restart the recovery of the travel and tourism sector. The removal of these temporary measures is important recognition that travel restrictions should not remain in place if they no longer help prevent the spread of the virus.

“By removing barriers to travel in what is a critical period for forward-booking, passengers, airports, airlines and business across the UK can now plan ahead with confidence.”

Julia Simpson, World Travel and Tourism Council boss, added: “The removal of pre-departure tests and replacing Day 2 PCRs with more affordable antigen testing will significantly boost the sector and help both it and the whole UK economy recover much faster than expected.

“The testing measures being removed never actually stopped infections coming in and were a blunt policy which only damaged the travel and tourism sector.”

Joss Croft, of UKinbound, said: “This is not job done. January to March is a key booking period for inbound travel and if we are to ensure the successful revival of the UK’s valuable inbound tourism industry, worth £28 billion to the UK economy in 2019, then the government needs to provide a clear roadmap for the removal of all travel restrictions and to signal that the UK will be fully open for business.”

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But Danny Callaghan, of the Latin American Travel Association ( lata.travel ), remained sceptical. He said: “Although the scrapping of pre-departure tests from Friday is welcome, but why not before? The test-on-arrival still remains, which is very disappointing.

“It’s difficult to see what that test is supposed to actually achieve. You can go to a crowded football match without having to test afterwards, but not sit on a plane with 200 other people.

“I’m not sure the Government actually knows why it is retaining the arrival test, other than for political perception reasons. This additional cost burden is unnecessary, continues to be a barrier to outbound and inbound tourism and needs to be scrapped as soon as possible. Travel does not represent any meaningful risk to this country – the real risk is the economic fallout from months of nonsensical restrictions.”

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