The government’s decision to retain solely Latin American countries on its slashed red list “beggars belief”, according to the chief executive of the Latin American Travel Association.
Danny Callaghan welcomed news that some countries in the region were removed from the list in the latest government update on Thursday, but said he was “at an utter loss” to understand the treatment of the region, and particularly the rationale for retaining Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Panama.
The four nations are among just seven to be retained on the red list, alongside Venezuela, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Callaghan said: “We are pleased to see that a number of Latin American countries have finally been removed from the red list which will be a huge relief to our travel partners, many of whom are Latin American specialists and have not been able to trade at all for the last 18 months.
“We hope that this will provide a lifeline to some of these companies and enable them to recoup some business for the remainder of 2021.
“However, it beggars belief that all the remaining seven countries on the red list are in, or off the coast of, Latin America. Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Panama are all way ahead of other countries that have come off the list in terms of case rates, vaccination and testing regimes.
“I am at an utter loss to understand how this continued poor treatment of Latin American countries can be justified.”
Callaghan added: “I also feel that these developments could very easily have been announced two weeks ago, before the end of furlough, and might well have saved jobs in our sector.
“The reality is nothing significant has happened in recent weeks to have changed the government position on restrictions. Instead, this poorly timed announcement shows how little value the government places on our industry.
“I would also still like to see clarity from the UK government on the criteria they use to make these decisions, particularly for the seven destinations left on the red list. Once again, we call for a clear and transparent explanation of this shambolic approach to travel.”
Nigel Vere Nicoll, president of the African Travel and Tourism Association, also said more needed to be done following the announcement.
He said: “Atta welcomes the significant reduction to the red list, which will certainly help revive tourism from the UK to most of our African destinations.
“However, for the African traveller, there are still notable exceptions across the continent. Atta continues to work closely on tourism concerns with our global alliance partners and we call on the UK government for full and open transparency for each case, so that every country with travel restrictions can understand the measures that still need to be addressed before normal two-way travel can be experienced by the Africans. “
He added: “There remain significant challenges facing Africa’s travelling community. Vaccination rates across the continent have only reached 4%, yet for those who are fortunate enough to be fully vaccinated, a final hurdle of vaccine certification with international recognition, awaits before they too can travel.
“So much of Africa’s well-being depends on tourism. Its tentacles touch every aspect of the continent, conservation, the economy, health, and education. All barriers relating to the pandemic should now be raised to allow tourism to flow freely once again through the vibrant African continent, without further political hindrance.”