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Kuoni chief says red list change is ‘big hurdle overcome’

The travel industry has overcome its “last big hurdle” to mounting a recovery with the slashing of the red list, according to the boss of Kuoni.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Derek Jones, UK chief executive of Kuoni parent Der Touristik, said: “It’s fabulous news. It felt to us as though this was the switch. Travel for us is now back on – there’s no two ways about it and we can see that already in demand.”

He added: “For us, the Maldives and Mauritius had already come off the red list, so in a way we’d had a bit of a run-up. It was also pretty well trailed – so I think for those of us in the travel industry that were following the evolution of events, we pretty much knew that this was coming.

“It was maybe not the big fanfare of previous announcements; it almost felt as though this was the last big one that we needed to get under our belt in order to be able to push on with what we were already planning to do; but in terms of moving the sector forward, it’s a very important announcement. It almost feels as though this was the last big hurdle we needed to get over.”

Brian Young, managing director EMEA for G Adventures, agreed the relaxation was a “positive step in the right direction” but said restrictions in destinations meant there was still a lot of complexity to be overcome.

“It opens up quite a few destinations for us, but even though a number of destinations have come off the red list, there are still border restrictions at the other end that we’ve got to work through,” he said.

“It’s positive in one respect, but there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of different destinations, and their requirements for people to come in.”

Despite the note of caution, Young added: “It’s a step in the right direction and I’ll take everything that we get as positive. If it’s good news, it starts to get our industry moving, which is the most important thing.”

Gemma Antrobus, owner and managing director of Haselmere Travel and chair of Aito Specialist Agents, said: “It’s absolutely what we needed to see. Confidence is coming up. But it’s going to take time for people to understand everything about these countries and the fact that the entry criteria is different for every single country.

“We don’t even know yet what you have to do to get into South Africa, for example. We still have so many what-ifs.”

Antrobus added: “I felt very happy last night when I heard this – it was a relief. But I didn’t feel elated or like this was the saviour, because there’s so much hard work to do. And I think we’re all so exhausted.

“This comes after such a long period of time, and we’re just absolutely knackered. It’s a case of head down today;  let’s understand what this really means; let’s try and communicate clearly to our clients and take the enquiries as they come.”

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