International leisure travel is to be banned from England from Thursday until December 2 as part of a one-month lockdown, the government has confirmed.
Media speculation ahead of prime minister Boris Johnson’s press conference on Saturday evening suggested a ban would be included, but it was not mentioned in an initial statement.
Full details of the lockdown measures later confirmed: “Overnight stays and holidays away from primary residences will not be allowed – including holidays in the UK and abroad.
“This includes staying in a second home, if you own one, or staying with anyone you do not live with or are in a support bubble with. There are specific exceptions, for example if you need to stay away from home (including in a second home) for work purposes.”
The rules announced on Saturday apply only to England, with the devolved nations continuing to follow their own strategies.
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of Abta, said “public health must come first”, but urged the government to offer further clarification on the impact of the measures for the travel industry, and to ensure a testing regime was in place when restrictions were lifted.
He said: “Today’s announcement that holidays in the UK and abroad will not be allowed under lockdown in England will mean a complete shut down for travel businesses which have already been severely damaged by the pandemic – but public health must come first.
“We’re pleased to see the government has recognised the significant impact the latest lockdown will have on businesses and has extended the furlough scheme until the start of December. The government must also make good progress with the Global Travel Taskforce, ensuring a testing regime is ready to go as soon as lockdown is lifted.”
He added: “We will be seeking further clarification from government on the full implications of these latest measures for the travel industry, as well as assessing the support measures available for the sector.
“Anyone due to travel imminently on a package holiday should speak to their travel company to discuss their options.”
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership, said: “The ban on international and domestic travel as a result of the new lockdown measures will crucify the travel industry. Whilst we absolutely support measures to keep us all safe, the reality of the new lockdown means many of our travel agency members will not last the year without a financial support package from the government.”
She said 50% of jobs from Advantage members have been lost since March and 80% of members “will run out of cash by May”.
Lo Bue-Said added: “Since the summer the industry has been crying out for a testing regime to be implemented at UK points of entry and we are still waiting. Instead we have an increase in Covid cases, an ineffective yo-yo quarantine system, and a lack of travel corridors all of which impacts industry adversely because it happens to sell travel; with no recognition or sector specific support.
“This travel ban will now without a doubt lead to experience an unwelcome déjà vu in terms of providing advice and support to confused travellers and a rush on refunds which will again put pressure on travel agents whose bottom line is sinking lower and lower.”
Garry Wilson, chief executive of easyJet Holidays, said: “Whilst today’s announcement is disappointing as it came with no travel industry consultation or pre-warning, we are contacting thousands of our customers to share their options and offer reassurance.
“The steps the government has taken, which effectively prevents leisure air travel from the UK, has caused further disappointment for our customers who have been looking forward to well-earned holidays, many of whom have already faced disruption following the inconsistency of Covid-19 policies across the UK.”
He added: “We need to work to get Europe flying again in a more structured European wide approach led by scientific data, with an effective testing system and consistent protocols across the continent. A standard scheme of testing across Europe is key as it will provide more certainty for customers and get them travelling with confidence again.”
The four-week lockdown will see all non-essential retailers forced to close, with the government’s furlough scheme extended for a month until the end of November.
The government guidance specifically highlighted travel agents, saying it had ordered specific businesses to close including: “All non-essential retail, including, but not limited to clothing and electronics stores, vehicle showrooms, travel agents, betting shops, auction houses, tailors, car washes, tobacco and vape shops.”
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