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Comment: Is the Covid rollercoaster finally coming to an end?

We still need a few more things to happen, says Miles Morgan Travel chairman Miles Morgan

It’s yet another week of contrast in the world of travel. The past almost two years have been like being on a rollercoaster at Alton Towers non-stop, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The pressure on business owners in our sector has been immense, with green shoots quickly extinguished every time they have appeared.

For face-to-face travel agents, the mental stress of simply preparing customers to simply travel on holiday has been equally stressful.

That sounds a crazy thing to say, but staff waking up in the middle of the night worrying if Mrs Miggins has had her Covid test results back in time is common, and don’t put me in a room with president Emmanuel Macron to talk about France’s changing restrictions – sacre bleu!

It’s been a mad world over the past two years, and a ‘Big Dipper’ of emotion. The past week has continued the pattern, but this time the positive side of the rollercoaster came to the fore.

The announcement last Wednesday of the relaxation of testing rules has provided a massive shot in the arm. To summarise last week, the first week of the big booking season: day one, ropey; day two, ropey; day three, chinks of light; and then boom, a recovery starts on Friday.

Contingency plans

And it was not before time. Because so many government announcements have gone against the industry over the past couple of years, I had been planning for another month of poor income and yet more pressure on a bank account in reverse.

I was weighing up what extra measures should be taken to protect the business? And how could we cut our costs further, having reviewed them so often in the past two years? It was horrible.

Then, Mr Shapps pipes up and goes further than I think any of us thought he would by removing one test and downgrading another. It immediately took business to another level.

As I write this, we are not back to the glories of January 2020, which was a record month on every measure at Miles Morgan Travel, but it has been a huge step up on recent trading. The testing rules changes have been a game changer. And while there is always the threat of another variant, I wonder could we finally be getting off that Covid rollercoaster?

It did not get reported widely, but the transport secretary also mentioned that, at the end of January, he will have concluded a full review on travel with a view to having a ‘stable’ plan for international travel in 2022.

Now overlay that nugget of information with the rumour that prime minister Boris Johnson is also set to announce a plan for the UK to live alongside Covid from March and I hope you might share my upbeat vibe that the end of this rollercoaster might finally be in sight.

Testing and PLFs

Nevertheless, for this ride to finally come to a screeching halt, we need a few more things to happen.

My wish list includes an end to all testing for travel. Why bother? While Omicron was brought in from South Africa, we had nicely grown our own variant at home anyway. Australia is also proof that a closed border policy does not work.

Please stop the Passenger Locator Forms too, they are a total pain and a barrier to travel for some.

And stop the red list. It was a decision not supported by the World Health Organization and simply scares people from a cost and worry perspective and again appeared to be futile.

Regular readers of my spouting will know that my glass is always half full, even in the darkest of hours.

This time, I feel I have every right to feel I can finally leave our industry’s Covid version of Alton Towers with my body, mind and bank account just about in tact.

Let’s hope that this time no one pours weedkiller on my green shoots. The government‑forgotten travel industry deserves a much-needed boost.

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