Comment: A green light for business travel?

Corporate travel will remain limited, says Abby Penston of the Focus Travel Partnership

Rules for Lockdown 2.0 announced on Saturday and which came into effect from November 5 indicate business travel is exempt from the restrictions.

On the surface, this is great – better than Lockdown 1 which, despite exemptions for a few sectors, saw advice against all non-essential travel.

But a clear pathway to a business travel recovery it is not.

We are being encouraged to limit travel where possible. Infection rates of Covid-19 are surging across Europe.

Many key destinations are in some form of lockdown themselves and have, for the most part, their own complicated and stringent border restrictions and quarantine policies.

Finally, there is no internationally aligned testing system at borders.

We asked our partners this week for their interpretation of the new rules. Only 18% said their customers would use this exemption to start booking; 81% said their customers are confused by the rules and holding back to see what happens.

So we have small steps in the right direction, but the rules need to be communicated and managed better.

Before we went into lockdown, we were focussed on air corridors, a thorough testing solution and the removal of quarantine to kick-start responsible travel.

We are now in a different landscape. While the implementation of testing for travellers is an important part of recovery, it is not going to provide us with a silver bullet especially if it is done unilaterally.

For a sustained recovery, it is not the only issue that needs to be resolved.

Not so long ago, it seemed indisputable that we live in a global economy. But with nationalist policies such as America First holding sway, international co-operation is far from easy: 60% of our partners admitted to being unclear as to whether the outcome of the US election would speed up the development of air corridors between London and New York.

This is a key route for our industry and, it goes without saying, we welcome any progress being made here.

Aligned international policies over lockdowns and travel restrictions are key, which is why it is so important that the government’s Global Travel Taskforce continues to work collaboratively with other countries for aligned border policies which will truly kick-start confidence in travel.

We also need our government to engage properly with our industry and trade bodies so that we can expedite the right solutions.

With Brexit looming, this country cannot afford to let its travel industry stagnate or put our standing as a European hub of travel excellence at risk.

The government must work closely with the industry and invest in it for the future.

Abby Penston is chief executive of the Focus Travel Partnership

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