Changes to the travel green list and plans to open up more holiday hotspots to the double-jabbed are not enough to save the summer for the travel sector, ministers have been told.
Business leaders lined up to accuse the government of an overly cautious approach as destinations including Spain’s Balearic Islands, Malta, Madeira and Barbados were added to the list allowing quarantine-free travel from next Wednesday.
The government also confirmed plans to allow travel without quarantine for those who have been fully vaccinated to amber list countries – which currently include France, Spain, Italy and the US – but without giving a date.
Travel operators have been lobbying for a quicker lifting of restrictions to holiday destinations as well as the extension of government measures to help it through the period – and save thousands of jobs – while they continue.
Easyjet chief executive Johan Lundgren welcomed the addition of some countries to the green list.
But he added: “This is still not the safe and sustainable reopening of travel the government promised.
“With two thirds of UK adults expected to be double jabbed by 19 July, now is the time to let British citizens take advantage of the success of the vaccination programme.
“The timetable set out by the government simply isn’t ambitious enough. What are we waiting for?
“The apps are in place and airlines are ready to go so we urge the government to move more quickly and remove both quarantine and testing for fully vaccinated people.”
Matthew Fell, CBI chief UK policy director, said: “While welcome, these limited movements on green list countries won’t be enough to salvage the summer season for the international travel sector.
“International connectivity extends far beyond tourism and underpins our whole economy.
“The UK’s successful vaccine rollout means we should be in the vanguard of safely restarting international travel.
“Other countries are already pressing ahead with enabling travel for the fully vaccinated.
“The government must show more urgency to implement a truly risk-based system.
“Further, urgent support is now needed for the travel industry to prevent the loss of skilled jobs and protect the UK’s long-term global competitiveness.”
Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, said: “Any extension of the green list is welcome, however small, but we also have to be realistic: this is not yet the meaningful restart the aviation industry needs to be able to recover from the pandemic.”
Ms Dee urged the government to implement its plans for quarantine-free travel for those who had been fully jabbed as soon as possible “to save what remains of the summer season”.
She added that without sector specific-support for the aviation sector, the government’s “overly cautious approach” would mean may jobs being at risk.
ABTA, the industry body representing travel agents and tour operators, has previously estimated that 195,000 jobs have been lost or are at risk as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Responding to the latest changes, ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “If the government is going to continue to place such tight constraints on the industry’s ability to trade, we need them to commit to a package of tailored financial support for the sector, which recognises that the travel industry’s recovery will be slower than that in other sectors of the economy.”
At the same time, travel companies face furlough support starting to be withdrawn from next week when they start having to contribute to pay for temporarily laid-off workers.
“With travel to the most popular holiday destinations still largely restricted – they will simply not have the money to do so,” Mr Tanzer said.
A number of airlines have said they are taking legal action over the government’s approach.
Several hundred people, including pilots, cabin crew and travel agents, gathered to protest outside the Houses of Parliament earlier this week.
Following the latest announcement, trade union Unite called for the government to extend furlough support for the travel sector beyond the current cut-off in September – or risk tens of thousands of jobs being lost.
Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: “It is becoming increasingly clear that due to policies in the UK and in destination counties international air travel is not going to return to anything like normal this year.
“As a consequence, the government must stop prevaricating and swiftly introduce measures which will ensure that the UK still has a functioning aviation industry in the future.”
Brian Strutton, acting general secretary of pilots’ union BALPA, said: “The government has not gone as far as it could have in opening up safe travel but they clearly heard the industry’s voice yesterday and have responded.
“It isn’t good enough to survive on and the absence of any US routes is a bitter blow.”