The boss of recently-launched online tour operator Sunny Heart Travel has warned that government guidelines about Covid-19 testing for overseas travel are unclear for many holidaymakers.
Chief executive Steve Bentzen recently returned from a work visit to Egypt, which highlighted the potential difficulties of obtaining a PCR test overseas when international leisure travel resumes, no earlier than May 17.
All travellers returning to the UK need a negative PCR test before they fly back, as well as a passenger locator form.
Under the government’s traffic light system, arrivals from green destinations will also need a PCR test on or before day two of their arrival back into the UK but will not need to quarantine on return.
Amber arrivals will need to quarantine at home for 10 days and take a PCR test on day two and day eight with the option for Test to Release on day five to end self-isolation early.
Bentzen said Sunny Heart has instructed all of its 84 resort reps to provide a plan to show how they can assist customers “with the most stressless way of obtaining the tests abroad”.
Furthermore, the operator has secured a deal with healthcare company Randox to offer PCR tests in the UK for £60.
“I have just returned from Egypt to inspect hotels and finalise the contract with our DMC (destination management company),” he said.
“I don’t think the government guidelines are clear enough. I think everyone needs to be aware that it is a UK requirement to have an in-resort negative PCR test 72 hours before the return flight from any country.”
He had to take an hour’s drive from the Red Sea resort of Hurghada to reach the test centre, accompanied by a local guide, but warned that holidaymakers travelling independently would find it much harder to source a test overseas and could be turned away from the airport.
“Clients should think carefully about their choice of holiday company or booking DIY,” he said.
“Not in a million years would I want to be a stranded passenger in a resort.”
The operator was born out of the Thomas Cook collapse in 2019. It was originally due to launch in autumn last year but that was postponed until March 1 because of the pandemic.
Staffed by 10 ex-Thomas Cook retail staff in its call centre, Sunny Heart Travel hopes to be selling through agents this summer.
Bentzen said its earliest departures are currently scheduled for August but he expects there could be a flurry of late bookings next month when the government reveals how countries are categorised under its new traffic light system.
However, he expects many holidaymakers will be undeterred by the amber category, which requires those arriving in the UK to self-isolate at home.
“With so many working from home, 10 days at home is not a big issue,” he said.
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