The government has committed to work with industry on a tourism recovery plan followed by a similar initiative for aviation.
The much-anticipated Global Travel Taskforce also indicated that an exemption for short-term business trips from the need to self-isolate on arrival would “clearly have a major beneficial impact” in supporting conferences and to the broader visitor economy.
The taskforce heard that business travel is expected to recover most slowly and that there is a clear need to boost confidence.
The taskforce explored other initiatives that could potentially further assist international travel and tourism, “recognising that ‘test to release’ is not the answer for all segments of the market”.
The taskforce heard that “it is vital that we provide clarity on the reopening of business events, given the lead time to organise these events.
“The recommendations will be subject to further clinical advice as they are developed and will be reviewed regularly as the pandemic evolves to ensure we are focussing our efforts appropriately.”
The wider tourism recovery proposals will set out the transformation and growth of both domestic and international sectors over the next five years as part of the UK’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, “balancing that with the public health risks”.
The short-term recovery priorities outlined in the report include: maximising the profits of tourism businesses able to reopen; reopening the tourism drivers currently closed (including business, sporting and cultural events); and preserving key infrastructure and jobs to service visitors of the future.
“The government will continue to work with industry to establish the conditions that need to be met to support restart and future planning,” the Taskforce report said.
“This will be based on the epidemiological criteria that need to be met, build on key measures we are taking – including testing – and take account of the impact of vaccines in the near future.
“Once the short-term measures set out in this report have taken effect, the government will develop and publish an Aviation Recovery Plan looking at the challenges the sector will face in the medium term, including ensuring sustainable economic growth and on delivering our longer term aims on net zero and connectivity.“
‘Tour bubbles’ for group tours from overseas were identified as one potential measure to assist inbound travel.
“Building on the model successfully used by sports teams this year and seeking potential benefits from the prospect of vaccines on the horizon, the group would arrive together and use private transport to visit a number of Covid-19 secure venues, all while staying together as a group and following local regulations,” the report said.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will lead work with industry to develop the feasibility of this proposal, which remains subject to advice from clinicians.
The ability to transit through other countries is also seen as a “critical component” of the travel sector, on which many passenger journeys rely.
This is particularly relevant for journeys from across Europe to the UK via overland transport, and for longer aviation journeys, where a layover is needed in an intermediate country.
“Therefore, we will explore ways that transit could be safely facilitated, in line with public health requirements, without passengers needing to self- isolate on return to the UK,” the taskforce said.
“This will include working through multilateral institutions, such as ICAO, and with partner countries on how we can assure ourselves that global guidance is being implemented appropriately in transit hubs.”
UKinbound chief executive Joss Croft told The Times that any requirement to quarantine for five days would “continue to significantly impede demand and therefore risk jobs in the UK’s valuable inbound tourism industry”.
He added: “We need a best-in-class testing regime, negating the need for a lengthy self-isolation, otherwise competitors who do have these systems will reap the benefit.
“Tourism will be able to significantly aid the UK’s economic recovery but right now businesses are struggling to survive and until a more rigorous system is in place, international visitors will not return in numbers.”
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