The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has accused the UK of being “too cautious” in reopening its borders to international travel in the wake of its successful vaccination programme.
Following the announcement of its green list of 12 countries that require no quarantine for travellers upon their return, the council’s president and CEO welcomed the initial opening up.
However, she urged the UK government to take advantage of the success of its vaccination programme and go further by reopening borders to even more countries.
Guevera said: “We welcome this first initial step by the UK government to begin opening the door to international travel with the announcement of today’s ‘traffic light’ system.
“However, airlines and the wider travel and tourism sector will be hugely disappointed that the US, which has a similar vaccination success rate has not been included on the ‘green list’ as it would have enabled the resumption of transatlantic travel, which would have thrown a vital lifeline to the sector in two of the biggest travel and tourism markets in the world.
“The UK is the fourth biggest G20 economy in terms of international travel and tourism spend from business travel, which amounted to £7.5 billion in 2019, before the pandemic ripped through the heart of the sector.
“While we understand that protecting public health should be the priority, the UK is being too cautious and risks losing its hard-won competitive advantage achieved by the early vaccine rollout by being too slow to allow the significant resumption of international travel.
“Holidaymakers and business travellers will be disappointed by today’s news, with so few countries on the ‘green list’, while Europe steals a march on the UK by continuing to open up and welcome visitors back.
“We are also disappointed that UK travellers are expected to pay for expensive PCR tests, even when travelling from countries on the green list. This will make foreign holidays totally unaffordable for many families.
“We urge the UK government to work with its providers to offer more cost-effective tests for UK travellers, or accept the more affordable yet rapid and effective, antigen tests.
“After suffering the biggest fall in contribution towards GDP from travel and tourism of the 10 most important global markets – by a staggering 62.5 per cent – the UK can ill-afford to be this cautious.”