LONDON — British tourists are now able to fly abroad as Covid restrictions are eased, but only to a limited number of destinations — something that the tourism industry wants to change.
People in England and Scotland can fly to a list of 12 countries on the so-called green list from Monday without having to quarantine upon their return. This represents a massive change as vacations abroad have been illegal for months. The advice for people in Wales is only to travel for essential reasons, though taking trips is also no longer prohibited by law.
The changes in policy were welcomed by the tourism industry, which is keen to open for business after a challenging time during the pandemic. Nonetheless, the sector is hoping that the government will lift compulsory quarantines for more destinations.
“It is a cautious return to international travel. We would have liked to have seen more countries added to the green list,” Stewart Wingate, the CEO of Gatwick Airport told CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick on Monday.
The green list represents the group of nations that tourists can visit without compulsory quarantine upon their return. For now, the list includes countries such as Portugal, Israel, Singapore, Iceland and Gibraltar, and it will be reviewed every three weeks.
We look forward to Spain, Italy and Greece being added to the U.K. green list in the next couple of weeks .
Tourists arriving from one of these destinations will have to provide a passenger locator form, take a Covid test prior to boarding their return flight, and also book and pay for another Covid test for the second day after their arrival.
However, visits to nations on the so-called amber list require self-isolation for a period of 10 days, and trips to countries on the red list require a 10-day quarantine in a hotel.
Sunny European destinations, often chosen as holiday spots by British tourists, such as France, Spain, Italy and Greece are currently on the amber list.
“From an industry perspective what we would like to see is for our government to continuingly review the status of the countries, in particular places like the Spanish islands, the Greek islands and then, in due course over the coming weeks, some of the big destinations that we serve from Gatwick, such as Spain, Italy and Greece and the USA progressively placed on the green list when it is safe to do so,” Wingate said on Monday.
The CEO of budget airline Ryanair echoed this sentiment.
“We look forward to Spain, Italy and Greece being added to the U.K. green list in the next couple of weeks and I think that will accelerate the recovery of booking short-haul holidays from the U.K. to Europe certainly through to July, August and September,” Michael O’Leary, the CEO of Ryanair, told CNBC on Monday.
The heads of British Airways and Heathrow Airport also urged the U.K. government to allow tourists to visit more European destinations and the U.S. without having to quarantine on their return, Reuters reported.
“It’s quite important for many of these airline companies that the green list is expanded,” Ruhell Amin, equity research analyst at William O’Neil and Co, told CNBC’s Street Signs Monday, adding that he expects to see more countries added in the coming weeks.
Stocks in Europe’s travel and leisure sector fell more than 2% on Monday.
Despite the ongoing easing of travel restrictions in the U.K, there’s still plenty of uncertainty facing the battered industry as quarantine rules are reviewed and the future of the pandemic remains unclear. Though vaccinations against the coronavirus have picked up pace in the U.K. and European Union, there are concerns about new variants —especially the one first identified in India — and their potential impact.
On Sunday, the U.K.’s Health Minister Matt Hancock told the BBC there is “increasing confidence” that Covid vaccines work against the variant identified in India. However, he added that the government cannot yet confirm whether all social restrictions will be lifted on June 21 as initially planned.