International travel 'last chance saloon' for pandemic hit businesses, say industry experts

Travel rules should be relaxed further to help save UK businesses who have struggled throughout the pandemic, according to industry experts.

A plane lands on the southern runway at London Heathrow Airport (PA/Steve Parsons)

International travel is the “last chance saloon” for the summer season, according to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) who are calling for the relaxation of restrictions “if beleaguered businesses are to salvage any opportunity to trade their way towards recovery this year.”

The Government are facing fresh requests to loosen rules further amid the fallout following the abandoning of plans for a so-called amber watch list wish sparked backlash from industry and Conservastive backbenchers.

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Whitehall sources have blamed Transport Secretary Grant Shapps for the fiasco, while Labour accused the Government of being responsible for “reckless U-turns and confusion”.

CBI Policy Director John Foster said the UK’s vaccine roll-out offers “genuine opportunity for more travel to resume safely” and that “rebuilding passenger confidence will be key”.

He explained: “Establishing simple, consistent rules and communicating them clearly is essential. The decision to abandon publication of an amber watchlist is a sensible step towards that goal, but the government must get back to consulting industry first, thus creating better policy and enabling improved implementation.

“In addition to lifting restrictions, Government should prioritise the creation of an efficient pre-travel system of assessing passengers’ Covid-status to prevent congestion at airports.”

Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake said “it’s understandable that the Government has taken a cautious line” he agreed that the vaccination programme means it should be safe to relax the rules further.

The Conservative MP also said that while North Yorkshire is experiencing high numbers of staycationers, there are “parts of the country that rely on international travel more than we do, central London being a good example”.

He went on: “You’ve got to think about every business up and down the country and think about the national economy as well.

“So if the evidence is that things are safe, we shouldn’t have any restrictions on those things.”

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “We recognise this is a challenging period for the sector, as we seek to balance the timely reopening of international travel while safeguarding public health and protecting the vaccine roll-out.

“We are regularly reviewing our international travel policy, based on a range of factors and the latest scientific data available and we have provided £7bn to help support the industry during the pandemic.”