BTA urges business travel exemption from ‘amber’ quarantine

The Business Travel Association (BTA) has urged the government to allow corporate travellers returning from ‘amber’ countries under the new Covid traffic-light system to be exempt from quarantine.

The government announced the plan for categorising countries as green, amber or red on Monday, with the ‘amber’ category involving 10-days self-isolation on return to the UK as well as three Covid tests – one pre-departure and two on arrival.

BTA chief executive Clive Wratten welcomed the traffic-light system, but said: “We’re asking for business travellers to be exempt from quarantine for amber list countries.

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“We’re also talking to the Department for Transport about ‘the reason for travel’ declaration [required of travellers].”

He said: “We need absolute clarity around what is possible and what is not.”

Speaking on an Elman Wall industry webinar, Wratten suggested: “Corporates are starting to get itchy feet and saying ‘We need to get out and see customers’.”

He reported: “Business travel is happening – entertainment, film production and music are quite strong, as is oil, marine and gas and the public sector. There is also a bit of an upturn in the financial sector.

“Our members are trading at around 10% of 2019 numbers, but there was an uptick in March and people are looking to April to be 20% to 30% of 2019.” However, he said: “It’s fragile.”

Wratten said the problem for the industry is “when do you bring people back”, and insisted: “We need the job support scheme not to be scaled back. We’ve asked the government to keep it at 80% and beyond September.”

The job support scheme is due to be reduced in phases from July 1 and end on September 30.

Suzanne Horner, chair of the BTA and chief executive of travel management company Gray Dawes, told the webinar: “I’m not expecting any type of recovery for corporate travel until September.”

She said: “January and February were brutal. March was about 50% up on January and April is similar. May, June, July and August will probably be the same. I am expecting a change in September.”

Horner reported Gray Dawes was approaching £200 million [a year in revenue] before the pandemic and said: “Now we’re trading at less than 10% of that.”

She added: “I don’t see international leisure travel opening before June. It might be later. Right now we’re treading water, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

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