The UK’s decision to place France on a special amber plus travel list will affect people visiting friends and family more than holiday-goers, who will likely just choose another destination with fewer restrictions, the head of a European tourism body has said.
“From the point of view of people in France wanting to go to the UK, this market is in reality only those wanting to visit friends and family,” Tom Jenkins, CEO of the European Tourism Association (ETOA), told The Connexion.
He said that while the UK’s decision is “highly irritating, and in some ways an affront”, it will not overall have a big effect on the tourism industry, which is already badly hit by the pandemic.
“Given that fully vaccinated people returning to the UK from amber-list countries have to do a test before arriving and a test on arriving anyway, this acts as an enormous disincentive for anyone travelling there for a holiday,” he said.
ETOA is a trade association for tour operators and suppliers in European destinations, with over 1,200 members.
The UK is to allow fully vaccinated visitors from the EU and US to enter the UK without quarantine from Monday (August 2) – but France is excluded from the rule.
It means travellers from France will have to continue to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival in the UK and pay for two Covid tests for days two and eight of this period as well as take the standard pre-departure Covid test.
It is because the UK recently placed France on a single-country ‘amber plus’ list, citing concerns over the Beta variant of Covid.
Fully vaccinated travellers from the US and other EU countries will not have to quarantine on arrival and will only need to take one Covid test, two days after arriving in the UK.
Mr Jenkins said that this new relaxation of measures for vaccinated people will not help the UK recover its inbound tourism sector this summer. He said he does not foresee a huge influx of tourists travelling to the UK from Monday.
“People planning on big, costly holidays will not go to the UK, they will go somewhere else where they don’t need to pay tests on arrival.
“The UK has lost the summer, as far as inbound tourism goes.”
He said holidaymakers living in EU countries will likely choose other EU countries to travel to, as there are fewer restrictions.
He added that none of the travel measures being put in place by governments encourage any sort of tourism.
“People go on holiday to relax and enjoy themselves. Being burdened with large quantities of bureaucratic obligations is not a holiday,” he said.
Ultimately, he said, the governments were generally following the wishes of the public.
“The opinion polls in most countries show that people support borders being blocked. [Covid] is a disease that is perceived as coming from abroad. If any government closes borders, they know that [the majority] of the public is going to back them.
“Governments have to be seen as doing something [to stop Covid], and so they [put in place these measures].”
He said that despite that, many in the tourism industry are hopeful that the UK will restore France to its regular amber travel list, therefore allowing fully vaccinated people to travel from there to the UK without the need to quarantine on arrival.
The UK’s next review of travel rules is on August 4 or 5.