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‘A major breakthrough’: trade hails UK-US reopening plans

Representatives of the trade on both side of the Atlantic have hailed news that US borders will reopen to fully-vaccinated UK travellers from early November.

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said: “This is a major breakthrough which coupled with the removal of travel restrictions announced last week represents a substantial reopening of UK aviation.

“The US is one of our most important markets and the air corridor is worth billions of pounds a year in trade and tourism – safeguarding thousands of jobs. Things are moving in the right direction and ministers deserve credit for getting us to this point. We look forward to seeing the full details so airlines can support seamless implementation in November.”

Alderslade added: “Obviously, there is more to be done – including the relaxation in due course of restrictions for unvaccinated passengers – but for now there is light at the end of the tunnel following 18 months of unprecedented uncertainty.”

An Abta spokesperson said: “The news that double-vaccinated travellers will be allowed to travel to the US from the UK from November is great news for holidaymakers, business travellers and those who have been separated from friends and family for so long.

“The USA is by far our most popular long-haul destination and in a normal year attracts almost five million visitors from the UK. The announcement will come in time to allow people to, among other things, take the ever popular Christmas shopping trips to New York and is a very welcome boost for the winter sports market whose customers love the country’s high quality ski resorts.”

Clive Wratten, chief executive of the Business Travel Association, welcomed the move, but questioned the need to wait until November and said the reopening “must be permanent”.

He said: “The re-opening of international travel between the UK and the US is long overdue. Today’s reported announcement from President Biden gives the whole travel industry light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

“We have been calling for this for many months. Waiting until November harms businesses on both sides of the Atlantic. Once travel between the two countries resumes, it must be on a permanent basis.”

Joanne Dooey, SPAA president, said: “America is one of the most significant markets for Scottish travel agents, so news that double vaccinated Scots will soon be able to travel to the USA once again for business, visiting friends and family and for holidays is a huge boost.

“More than 1.4 million travellers to Orlando each year are from Britain and, along with Florida, New York and Las Vegas are key destinations from Scotland. Pre-pandemic, there were around six flights daily from Glasgow and Edinburgh direct to the States, so the importance of this move for the whole Scottish travel sector and the 26,000 jobs it sustains, can’t be under estimated.

“Of course, we await the finer details of which vaccinations will be accepted and will qualify for entry and also the confirmation that this will apply to Scotland, but this is certainly a very important change to travel rules. This could also be the saviour for inbound travel to Scotland and the high spending American visitors it brings.”

Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, said: “The US government’s announcement that fully vaccinated UK visitors will be able to enter the US from November is a major milestone to the reopening of travel at scale, allowing consumers and businesses to book travel to the US with confidence.

“As the UK forges its recovery from the pandemic, the reopening of the transatlantic corridor and the lifting of Presidential Order 212F acknowledges the great progress both nations have made in rolling out successful vaccine programmes.

“The UK will now be able to strengthen ties with our most important economic partner, the US, boosting trade and tourism as well as reuniting friends, families and business colleagues. We are thankful to the UK government, the Biden administration and our industry partners for their collaboration.”

He added: “The US has been our heartland for more than 37 years since our first flight to New York City in 1984. We are simply not Virgin without the Atlantic. After 18 months of uncertainty, we cannot wait to welcome our customers back onboard, flying them safety to their favourite US destination.”

Andrew Crawley, American Express Global Business Travel chief commercial officer, said: “After more than 550 days of shut borders, we are thrilled that the US will finally be reopening to fully vaccinated travellers from the UK and EU.

“There is huge pent-up demand for transatlantic travel among our customers and we fully expect to see a sustained spike in bookings.  It is a positive step forward for global economic recovery and we await further details from the White House.”

US Travel chief executive Roger Dow said: “The US Travel Association applauds the Biden administration’s announcement of a roadmap to reopen air travel to vaccinated individuals from around the world, which will help revive the American economy and protect public health.

“This is a major turning point in the management of the virus and will accelerate the recovery of the millions of travel-related jobs that have been lost due to international travel restrictions.

“The US Travel Association expresses its deep appreciation to the President and his advisors – in particular Commerce Secretary Raimondo, who has been a tireless advocate – for working with the industry to develop a plan to restart international travel and safely reconnect America with the world.”

Alison Montague, vice-president & managing director EMEA, Universal Parks & Resorts said: “This long awaited and positive news is a fantastic update for the UK-US travel industry. To receive such good news going into our peak booking months is a huge boost for our travel trade partners and I’m sure they will be seeing an instant uplift in both enquiries and bookings right now.

“Retaining those key travel periods of Christmas, February half-term and Easter, was so important to us all.”

Casandra Matej, chief executive of Visit Orlando, said: “We are thrilled by the news about our borders reopening to the UK – our top international overseas market.

“Knowing there is a huge pent-up demand for Orlando holidays, we are ready to safely welcome back international visitors to experience the exciting new developments that have continued taking place in The Theme Park Capital of the World.”

Steve Norris, managing director EMEA for Flight Centre, said: “This is the day we’ve been waiting for; President Biden’s decision to allow UK and EU travellers to enter the country without quarantine means a huge turning point for the travel industry.”

“Pre-Covid, 15% of Flight Centre’s annual bookings were to the US, representing hundreds of thousands of customers. To Brits, the US represents so much more than our largest economic ally; we’ve been waiting with baited-breath for 18 months to see family, reunite with loved ones and explore the country once again.

“We applaud President Biden for his decision to revoke these restrictions following the incredible vaccine rollout on both sides of the Atlantic and have our agents prepped and ready to help Brits cross the pond for the first time in 18-months.”

Chris Townson, UK and Ireland managing director of Insight Vacations, said: “North America has always been one of our top selling destinations out of the UK so we are delighted that the USA will be open to UK travellers from the beginning of November.

The great news for our guests from the UK is that our post-pandemic USA trips have been running since May this year, so operationally things are as smooth and hassle-free as they ever were. In fact, we also have the addition of a Wellbeing Director on board our trips as an extra reassurance that guests will be looked after every step of the way.

“2022 bookings for the USA – particularly the iconic national parks and cosmopolitan coastlines – have already been strong, with many people choosing to upgrade or book longer trips, spending on average 30% more than they did pre-pandemic to travel in style and make their next holiday count. With pent up demand as it is, today’s news is a further, very welcome boost.”

Fred Stratford, chief executive of business travel agency Reed & Mackay, said: “The news today from The White House that fully vaccinated individuals travelling from the UK and EU can enter the US from November is a fantastic result for businesses and for the global economy.

“The London – New York route has historically been one of the hottest for business travel and the opening of the United States to UK and EU citizens has been much anticipated by our professional services client base. We’ve seen week on week growth in excess of 20% throughout September and fully expect this latest news to further fuel corporate travel volumes for the region, particularly as businesses move to take advantage of the opportunity to meet face to face with their clients.

“The news provides a huge confidence boost for the role of vaccines in a safe and confident return to travel.”

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