More than 200 travel and hospitality firms have now called on the government to change planned quarantine rules, which they say are unworkable and deeply damaging to their industry.
The companies have joined the aviation industry in a growing backlash against rules due to be introduced from 8 June. All visitors and returning travellers entering the UK will have to quarantine for 14 days and face spot checks and fines for breaching isolation.
Firms say the announcement of plans has already hit sales in the sector. Companies have instead proposed, in a letter to the home secretary, Priti Patel, the creation of “airbridges” allowing travel between the UK and countries where coronavirus has been controlled and the risks are low. The potential of such airbridges was mooted by the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, but appears to have been now dismissed by government.
The originator of the letter, George Morgan-Grenville, the chief executive of the tour operator Red Savannah, said: “This is not just a group of company bosses complaining but employees from bottom to top calling for the quarantine plans to be quashed. The extent of their pain is deeply worrying for our economy and our country.”
The firms say that there was now “a glimmer of hope” that some portion of the most lucrative summer season could be salvaged but quarantine would deter all travel and likely see other countries impose reciprocal regimes on UK visitors.
Signatories include hoteliers and restaurant businesses including Claridges, The Ritz, and The Connaught, as well as travel firms such as Kuoni, Travelbag, Cosmos and Inghams.
The letter lashes out at the government for ignoring calls from the sector to impose quarantine restrictions early in the crisis, before Covid-19 was widespread, and failing to adjudicate on how struggling firms should manage customer bookings. It says: “The government has been woefully slow to react and has procrastinated to the point of absurdity in terms of either providing support for, or ruling against, the concept of refund credit notes.”
The firms have also called on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to review its blanket advice against all non-essential travel, which has prevented bookings of possible future holidays.
A number of Conservative MPs have now demanded that the government reviews its plan, including the Commons transport select committee chair Huw Merriman, who called for the wholesale rule to be ditched and replaced with measures such as air-bridges, compulsory PPE and temperature testing at airports.
Last month the aviation industry and airlines warned that the plans would extend the economic damage from Covid-19. Airlines UK, which speaks for major carriers operating here, said the plans “made no sense”. The Airport Operators Association said the quarantine move was “simplistic” and would have very serious economic and social consequences.