Travel bosses have welcomed the expansion of the green list to include 14 new destinations, but warned the change “fails to go far enough” to allow the industry to recover from the pandemic.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the slight easing of restrictions on foreign holidays on Thursday (24 June) evening, with Spain’s Balearic islands, Malta and several Caribbean islands now among the list of locations from which travellers do not have to self-isolate on their return.
Changes 'fail to go far enough'
Fourteen new countries and territories will be added to the green list of destinations from 4am on Wednesday (30 June), including the Balearic islands, Madeira, Barbados, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.
All of the new destinations, with the exception of Malta, have also been put on a ‘watch list’, along with Israel and Jerusalem, meaning they are at risk of being moved back onto the amber list.
Several new countries have also been added to the red list, with returning travellers required to stay at a Government-approved quarantine hotel. The affected destinations include the Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Haiti, Kuwait, Mongolia, Tunisia and Uganda.
While the travel and tourism sector welcomed the latest changes, industry leaders expressed frustration that the limited opening up of foreign travel is still not sufficient enough to help it recover from the pandemic.
Airport Operators Association chief executive Karen Dee said any extension of the green list “is welcome”, but “this is not not yet the meaningful restart the aviation industry needs”.
Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, added: “It’s a constructive step that the Government has recognised that Antigua, Barbados and Grenada can be classified as ‘green’ allowing family and friends to finally reunite and enable much needed holidays.
“However, today's (24 June) announcement fails to go far enough.”
Calls have been made for the aviation sector to be given more financial support by the Government to help protect jobs in the industry, with the union Unite saying the furlough scheme should be extended until spring next year as a “minimum”.
Travel bosses have also urged the Government to scrap the current 10-day quarantine rule for travellers returning to the UK from amber list countries, saying those who are now fully vaccinated should no longer have to self-isolate.
Ms Dee urged the Government to publish details of its plans as soon as possible to “save what remains of the summer season”, stating: “While this is not yet the vaccine dividend people in the UK had hoped for, it is welcome that Government intends to exempt fully vaccinated travellers from quarantine.
“In the meantime, the overly cautious approach continues to have major financial impacts for airports.”
Mr Shapps said it was the Government’s intention that such a rule would be introduced “later in the summer”, although there are concerns across the sector that it is already too late to save the summer holidays.
CBI chief UK policy director Matthew Fell 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.”
The holiday company On the Beach said it would not be taking new bookings for July and August while so much uncertainty remained about countries on the watchlist, while Thomas Cook chief executive Alan French was more optimistic, saying he expected a “bumper weekend” of bookings.
Mr French said the announcement was “fantastic news for our customers who are desperate for a holiday and have been waiting with bated breath for this latest update”.
EU-wide restrictions may be imposed
There are fears that EU-wide restrictions on travellers from the UK may be imposed amid concerns about the spread of the Delta Covid variant, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressing EU leaders to impose stringent quarantine requirements on arrivals.
She told the German parliament on Wednesday (23 June): “We have not yet managed to ensure that all 27 Member States have the same entry requirements for people arriving from virus variant areas, in this case Great Britain, but in other countries also.
“With us you have to be in quarantine when you come from the UK. This is by no means the case in every European country. But I would like that.”
Rory Boland, Which? travel editor, warned that travellers need to be “extremely cautious” about booking trips abroad this summer, even to green-list destinations, as restrictions could be changed with minimal warning.
He said: “Countries can be downgraded quickly and with little warning, as we saw with Portugal, while several European countries have introduced quarantine requirements for UK residents.
“Restrictions around international travel are changing regularly and when they do, the cost to holidaymakers is significant.”