‘UK risks huge job losses due to Covid travel stalemate’

The UK risks becoming increasingly isolated with huge job losses if it continues to keep the doors closed to significant international travel, the World Travel & Tourism Council has warned.

The message from the WTTC, which represents the global Travel & Tourism private sector, comes as figures reveal that forward bookings for international flights are lagging far behind the increased capacity generated by extra flights scheduled.

Airlines have dramatically increased flights to popular holiday destinations – many of which are still on the government’s ‘amber list’ – in anticipation of increased demand.

According to travel data and analytics expert Cirium, in the two weeks following the start of the government’s new traffic light system for travel on May 17, scheduled flights from the UK to Greece soared by more than 2,000 per cent, with a 435 per cent rise in flights to Spain, compared to two weeks before.

However, while airlines have been ramping up capacity, analysis of recent ticket sales by WTTC’s knowledge partner ForwardKeys, shows this hasn’t been matched by bookings.

On average during the week of May 14, airline ticket sales from the UK to Greece and Spain fell 37 per cent and 44 per cent respectively week on week.

Data shows at the end of last month, there were more tickets being cancelled than new bookings being made, while UK holidaymakers expressed disappointment over the government’s green list and expensive testing and quarantine requirements for travel to ‘amber’ list countries.

While ticket sales remain sluggish for the immediate future, indications are that there looks to be more positive news on the horizon with significantly more tickets recorded being sold for flights later this month and into July.

But WTTC concerns over the lack of inbound travellers to the UK is causing as much damage to the UK’s Travel & Tourism sector as has the collapse of outbound tourism to holiday hotspots around Europe and beyond.



Live flight arrival board for Gatwick's North Terminal
A number countries are on the red list with travel conditional with quarantine period

Virginia Messina, WTTC senior vice-president, said: “WTTC is calling upon the government to allow all those who are fully vaccinated, or can show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, to travel freely.

“We are seeing many countries, particularly those in the EU, allowing travellers that have been vaccinated or can show a negative test result, which will provide a boost to their economies in such a pivotal time.”

“We should use our hard-earned competitive advantage from one of the world’s best vaccine rollout programmes, with nearly 40 per cent of the population now fully vaccinated, to restore mobility and reopen the doors to safe international travel.

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“To do otherwise would squander the UK’s incredible vaccine achievement. However, we can save it and the millions of jobs which depend upon the sector if we act immediately and allow the safe return of international travel.”

WTTC has argued the UK should switch to a more risk-based approach and include more of those countries with a similar low infection rate, and with advanced vaccination rollouts, on the controversial ‘green list’. This should include the US, a move that could unlock transatlantic travel, which is critical to both economies.

Many countries across the EU such as Spain and Italy are capitalising on the UK’s incredible vaccine rollout by announcing they are opening their doors to British travellers.

“However, whilst these countries remain on the UK’s ‘amber list’, holidays to these destinations will be unaffordable for many, due to the high cost of the PCR tests needed when arriving back in the UK.