Overseas travel chaos blamed on government policies

Seven out of 10 Brits say the government is to blame for the chaos surrounding overseas travel during the pandemic, according to research released today (Monday 1 November) by WTM London.

The poll of 1,000 consumers found that half solely blamed the government, while a further fifth (22%) blamed both the government and travel industry.

Another fifth said the confusion was not the fault of government nor the travel industry – and just 6% blamed the travel industry, reveals the WTM Industry Report.

The findings come after 18 months of unprecedented disruption to travel across the globe as the Covid-19 pandemic took its toll.

In the UK, the government banned international travel in March 2020, with some easing of restrictions in summer 2020. Further bans were imposed as cases rose in autumn – then limited overseas travel was allowed again from May 2021, with the introduction of the controversial traffic light system.

Despite forging ahead with the vaccination program from December 2020, the UK did not see its international travel markets open up to the extent of its European neighbors, as the cost of PCR testing and short notice of changes to traffic light lists deterred consumers.

Holidaymakers in destinations such as Portugal, France and Mexico faced a scramble to return to the UK to avoid mandatory quarantine requirements – meaning many consumers opted instead for a staycation or no holidays at all.

Meanwhile, travel agents, tour operators, airlines and others in the travel industry campaigned tirelessly for the government to deliver a meaningful restart to international travel – although most have now suffered two summers of lost trading and face a battle to survive into 2022.

The confusion was compounded by the fact that the devolved nations were responsible for their own rules. It meant, for example, that Scottish and Welsh travelers were limited for much of the summer 2021 season to just one provider of PCR Covid-19 tests.

The consumer poll found that a higher percentage of Scots (57%) blamed their government alone for the chaos.

Simon Press, WTM London, Exhibition Director, said: “The second summer of the pandemic saw British holidaymakers endure another season of confusing, ever-changing and complicated rules for overseas travel, so it’s not surprising that bookings remained well below pre-Covid levels.

“A second lost summer, with no sector-specific support for agents, operators and airlines, means that this winter will see more business failures and job losses.

“In normal times, outbound travel contributes £37.1 billion in gross value added (GVA) to the UK economy and sustains 221,000 UK jobs – a larger number than the British steel industry.

“The travel sector has lobbied hard for clearer rules and financial aid but this has fallen on deaf ears for much of 2020 and 2021 – we must keep the pressure up into 2022 to ensure that the UK government, and its counterparts around the world hear our message and deliver the legislation that will support our recovery.”

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