Transport secretary Grant Shapps has chaired the first meeting of the government’s new Global Travel Taskforce.
Shapps posted a picture of himself on Twitter showing him hosting the virtual meeting online.
He reiterated the dates the prime minister outlined in his roadmap out of lockdown last week, that the earliest date international travel could resume from is May 17, and that the taskforce is due to report on April 12.
The reconvened taskforce is made up of representatives of a range of government departments, and will consult with a range of working groups and “representatives of the aviation, maritime, international rail and the tourism sector”.
Its recommendations will be “aimed at a return to international travel as soon as possible while managing the risk from imported cases and ‘variants of concern’”.
The first meeting included consultation with a range of trade associations and travel companies including easyJet, Eurostar, Jet2, Tui, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways’ parent company, IAG, the Independent reported.
Meanwhile, the maritime sector was represented by companies including Brittany Ferries, DFDS, P&O Ferries, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Viking Cruises.
The gov.uk website confirmed: “The taskforce will…establish working groups to feed into its final report. Most critical will be that established with the travel industry, given the need for proposals to be workable.
“In addition, the taskforce will consult to inform its report:
- international partners, to discuss options for bilateral pilots and the standards needed to facilitate safe international travel
- the tourism sector and local business leaders, to consider how international travel can support economic recovery
- academia and policy institutes to provide innovative solutions to the challenges the sector is facing.”
It added: “As with last year’s taskforce, we’ll work with a range of businesses covering aviation, maritime, international rail and the tourism sector to develop the report.”
In his tweet, Shapps reiterated that travel for leisure and holidays is currently illegal.
The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) urged the UK government to prioritise business travel.
President and chief executive Gloria Guevara said: “WTTC today calls on the UK government to prioritise the urgent resumption of international business travel – in line with the reopening of mobility and the easing of restrictions to domestic travel from the beginning of April.
“We need to capitalise on the huge success of the vaccine rollout and unblock the myriad of confusing rules and regulations which has stalled essential business travel. Now is the time to show that the UK government really means business.
“The resumption of safe international business travel will generate a much-needed revenue boost for businesses up and down the country and provide a critical economic lifeline to the government and enable the Chancellor to begin balancing the books.
“The UK is the fourth biggest G20 economy in terms of international travel and tourism spend from business travel, contributing £7.5 billion to UK Plc in 2019, and will be vital to kick-starting the country’s recovery.
“Resuming international travel also means the country’s economy can reopen more quickly, giving the UK a distinct competitive advantage as the globe slowly recovers and emerges from the ravages of the pandemic.”
Following Shapps’ tweet, Business Travel Association chief executive Clive Wratten responded: “Such a shame that you haven’t included or mentioned #BusinessTravel in your tweet or meeting. @TheBTAorg represents the industry and has always been willing to help & we continue to be willing.
“Business travel will power the economy, the aviation industry and global Britain.”
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