Travel industry reacts to mandatory testing

by Jessica Pook

Testing on arrival in the UK will ‘restore confidence and faith in travel’ but Government must subsidise the costs, says the travel trade.

Mandatory testing will now be introduced from Monday, January 18, meaning those arriving in England must provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 test upon arrival.

The announcement has been largely celebrated by the travel industry, but with many suggesting the decision is long overdue.

Ali Shah, CEO of agency TravelUP, said: “This is exactly what the travel industry has been calling for since last year and it will bring us into line with most other countries in the world including France, Germany, Spain and Dubai.

“It was incomprehensible to me why so many countries in the world were so quick to introduce mandatory testing, while the UK continued to have such lax measures. We need testing in place which we can rely on and which will allow people to travel to and from the UK with confidence once again.”

Dale Keller, Chief Executive of The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK), said: “Airlines have widely supported the introduction of pre-departure testing for many months and we recognise that the public will welcome this critical measure at the current time.

“However, it is vital that the lockdown period is utilised to develop a well-coordinated path towards easing travel restrictions at the earliest opportunity once the threat recedes, in particular the requirement to self-isolate for 10 days after arrival in the UK, and to review the ‘Test to Release’ option after five days.”

'Travel providers and industry bodies are also concerned that the cost of tests may discourage potential travellers and are calling for greater Government support in funding the new regime.

"It [pre-departure testing] joins a myriad of other measures which if still in place when more people start to travel would be confusing, expensive and logistically difficult for customers. It would also serve as a barrier to travel putting many people off booking in the first place," said Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive, ABTA.

"We are asking the Government to use the Global Travel Taskforce structure to convene specific working groups to look at these very issues, as well as what the rollout of the UK vaccine will mean for future overseas travel. We hope this will lead to a roadmap which can be used to drive future policy for business and leisure travel and get people moving again."

If Only General Manager, Gordon McCreadie, said: “The UK Government either has to supplement the costs of PCR tests, to make them more accessible to a wider market, or offer them free on return to UK airports. Without these measures, I struggle to understand how those in power can expect travel to return to normal anytime soon.

“It’s going to be especially difficult for agents and operators who will be expected to advise on access to tests overseas – as we all know, this can be challenging enough throughout the UK, and adding another obstacle to travel is the last thing we all need."

Ali Shah agreed that it’s imperative that the tests are easily accessible and inexpensive. “There are still many unanswered questions and we need clear communication from the Department of Transport about what tests are required and how to obtain them," he said. 

“It is also crucial that we bring the cost of Covid tests down. At the moment, private tests for Covid-19 cost anything from £60 to over £200. That is too much. We need to work together to make testing as cheap and reliable as possible.”

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