Leisure and business travel bosses say the decision to put the United Arab Emirates on the amber list will boost sales in the coming days and weeks.
The move was among several traffic light changes announced by the government on Wednesday evening. The UAE, along with India, Qatar and Bahrain will move from the red list to the amber list at 4am on Sunday, August 8.
John Bevan, divisional senior vice-president for Gold Medal parent dnata Travel Group, said the decision to move the UAE to amber was good news not just for the destination but for others now accessible via hub airports.
“I know our airline partners who fly to Dubai, and our hotel suppliers there, have made every effort to ensure traveller wellbeing and are desperate to welcome their British customers back, as are all of the other tourist-related businesses on the ground – so it’s great news for them as well,” he said.
“This gives us the opportunity to do what we’ve been denied for too long, which is to sell holidays – not just to the UAE itself, but also those onward destinations which can be connected to through Dubai, and which are also amber or green.
“We’ll now prepare for what we anticipate will be substantial growth in demand for late-notice departures from next week for those who meet the requirements to travel.”
Clive Wratten, chief executive of the Business Travel Association, said the opening of routes to the Middle East had “particular significance” for business travel.
“It will take some time for business travel to return at scale, but this enables our sector to contribute to UK GDP and the international trading reputation of our country once more,” he said.
“The government has taken the right and strong decisions in abandoning plans for watchlists and removing France’s unique amber-plus status. These were potentially calamitous moves which would have jeopardised the future of the whole travel and aviation supply chains.”
Steve Norris, EMEA managing director for Flight Centre Corporate, said the news about the additions of Germany and the UAE to the green and amber list respectively is the most important announcement for business travel since the pandemic began.
“We are confident the reopening of travel to both destinations will facilitate millions of pounds in new business deals and ongoing global business relations for the UK after over a year of stagnation,” he said.
Jacqueline Dobson, president of Barrhead Travel, welcomed the traffic light changes – particularly the UAE and other key transit hubs being moved to amber.
“Scotland’s connection with Dubai will also reunite many thousands of friends and family as it’s a popular expat destination,” she said.
“We’ve already seen an increase in enquiries for Dubai over the last few weeks and no doubt there will be a rush to secure holidays – particularly for September onwards.”
Emirates reported a “huge surge in queries from customers desperate to travel to see their families”. A spokesperson said the decision to add the UAE to the amber list for international travel, reflect the “extensive steps that have been taken to mitigate the spread of the virus in the UK and UAE”.
“The UAE currently has one of the world’s most successful vaccination programmes – with over 79% of the population having received one dose and over 71% already fully vaccinated,” added chief commercial officer Adnan Kazim.
“Given the low numbers of coronavirus cases in the UAE, the extensive testing at Dubai International Airport, and the careful health and safety measures in place across the passenger journey, we hope to see the UAE moving to the green list soon.”
Qatar Airways welcomed the government’s decision to move Qatar from the red list to the amber list and reported it is “seeing booking soar” since Wednesday night.
In response, the airline is offering for UK passengers from Heathrow, Manchester, and Edinburgh from £337, £387, and £417, respectively.
Chief executive Akbar Al Baker said: “We are very proud to be playing our part in the reopening of our country to visitors in the safest way possible and supporting the next step in the development of Qatar’s tourism industry.”
Virginia Messina, WTTC senior vice-president and acting chief executive, commented: “We are disappointed that more destinations were not added to the green list. But the additions of India, Bahrain, Qatar, and in particular the UAE – a major winter sun destination – will provide a massive boost to travel and tourism businesses over the coming months.
“Once again, we call on the US government to open its borders to fully vaccinated UK visitors, a move that would have a massive economic benefit both here in the UK and across the Atlantic.”
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive at Advantage Travel Partnership, commented: “Moving the UAE and Qatar – both of which are key international airport hubs particularly important for business travel – to the amber list is welcomed but it’s important to be mindful of all entry restrictions too.”