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Trade bodies urge clarity over Foreign Office travel advice

Abta and Airlines UK have highlighted the need for clarity around the future approach to foreign travel advice.

The industry bodies say it is critically important that the government reinstates the islands policy that was in place last summer.

And “careful consideration” should be given to how this can be built upon, with further regionalisation of advice within mainland areas where health data can be relied upon.

The joint letter to Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office minister Nigel Adams came ahead of the government revealing its traffic light system for reopening overseas travel from May 17. 

They point out  that infection rates can vary between mainland and islands.

When international travel reopened last year the government removed its advice against all but essential travel to some islands when it was still in place for the mainland.

For example, the advice was lifted for the Canary Islands but still in place for mainland Spain.

This allowed for a risk-managed approach to overseas travel, and the travel bodies argue the same process should be adopted as the sector looks ahead to restarting travel.

A similar approach also needs to be taken for countries with large land mass where regional health data is available.

Previously, advice against all but essential travel for Covid-19 applied to whole countries.

This meant that the government was advising against all but essential travel to countries such as the US, despite there being significant variation in infection rates across states.

Adopting a more sophisticated approach to travel advice, which applies a regional assessment of risk, would be more pragmatic and help to support vital trade links, such transatlantic connectivity with the US and Canada, they argue.

Decisions need be taken based on clear and transparent criteria relating to destination risk and not used to control risk of reimportation of the virus, which will be managed separately under the Department for Transport’s traffic light system, and be consistent with the wider travel policy as set out by the Global Travel Taskforce report.

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “Protecting public health must be the main priority for the government which is why a risk managed approach to returning to international travel is really important.

“Reintroducing the islands policy and adopting a regional approach to travel advice for large countries, which is informed by the health data around infection and vaccination rates, is a risk-based and pragmatic way of opening up international travel.

“It would help to enable the safe return of travel to more destinations while continuing to manage the risk to individuals.”

Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade said: “We’re waiting to hear more from the government on the traffic light system, but we also need clarity on the use of Foreign Office travel advice.

“That advice needs to be used for its intended purpose, to assess the risk to individuals travelling to a particular destination, and it should also be consistent and coordinated with the traffic light system – providing clarity for the industry and travellers.”

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