The travel industry is urging swift action to open up key transatlantic routes as a new UK-US travel taskforce was formed
Prime minister Boris Johnson and US president Joe Biden are expected to agree to work to relaunch UK-US travel “as soon as possible” through the new travel working group which will make recommendations on safely reopening international travel.
Downing Street said: “Many people in the UK and US have been prevented from seeing family and friends for over 400 days as a result of coronavirus travel restrictions. Before the outbreak of coronavirus more than 5 million Brits visited the US and over 4.5 million Americans visited the UK every year – more than any other country.
“The working group will work to explore options for resuming up UK-US travel and ensure that the UK and US closely share thinking and expertise on international travel policy going forward.”
World Travel & Tourism Council acting chef executive Virginia Messina said: “Whilst we welcome the news of a taskforce aimed at safely reopening travel between the UK and the US, unless we have a clear timeline and unlock transatlantic travel by 4 July at the latest, we will continue to see jobs lost and businesses go under.
“Nearly half of all adults in both countries are fully-jabbed and could travel seamlessly straight away, enabling airlines and the wider travel sector to recover quickly. Those not vaccinated should be allowed to travel with negative test proof.
“In 2019, before the pandemic devasted the sector, the US was the biggest source market for the UK in terms of visitor numbers, the UK was third biggest source market for the US. This shows just how vital a corridor would be in boosting both economies.”
American Express Global Business Travel chief commercial officer Drew Crawley said: “As the G7 summit begins, we welcome the UK and US governments’ shared commitment to reopening UK-US travel as soon as possible.
“Progress to date has been too slow. They must seize this moment to announce the implementation of consistent testing regimens with the mutual recognition of Covid health certificates (CHCs) in lieu of any quarantine restrictions.
“We must also hope that the formation of yet another travel taskforce finally produces rapid and meaningful results.
“US-UK travel routes are among the most profitable in the world, pumping billions into both the American and British economies while supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs on each side of the Atlantic. The continued closure of these vital routes for more than 400 days has been detrimental to economic recovery in both countries, contributing to lost job hours and hindering innovation and solutions to our shared challenges.
“Both the UK and US have made significant progress on their vaccination programmes and have similar r-rates, which raises several questions as to why travel remains heavily restricted. We can’t afford to wait any longer.”
Flight Centre EMEA managing director Steve Norris described the news as being the potential “lifeline the travel industry has been grasping fo”‘
He added: “Over the past few months, the USA has consistently been Flight Centre’s second most popular destination for enquiries and bookings, beaten only by Australia, where the company has its roots.
“Resuming travel to the US will jump-start the travel industry in its hour of greatest need; the USA has a strong vaccine record with cases falling steadily over the past few months, so we’re excited that meaningful talks between the countries’ two leaders could get travel back on the books in a safe and secure manner.
“We’ve heard countless stories of families and friends dreaming of their post-Covid reunion and we’re now one step closer to helping them out on their way to that happy day.”
Sam Willan, general manager of youth travel brand StudentUniverse UK, said: “The US in particular is a very important market for student travellers, with 17,500 young Americans coming to the UK each year, and 10,000 British heading across the Atlantic for study abroad programmes.
“With the next university year looming in just three months and applications due, we need action now from the UK and US governments on a bilateral agreement to allow travel between the two nations. With the vaccine roll-out successes, the science no longer supports the need for restrictions, and if there’s no agreement soon, it’ll be too late.
“We hope to hear some positive news over the coming days about the outcome of today’s discussions.
“We need immediate actions from the travel taskforce – not more recommendations. Not only is the travel industry in desperate need of some progress in re-opening travel, but the futures of thousands of British and US students depend on it.”
Jason Oshiokpekhai, managing director of the Global Travel Collection UK said: “While we are relieved of official conversation surrounding safe travel corridors between low-risk countries, the news of another travel taskforce leaves the industry with questions on what differences there will be this time, to impose sustainable and effective changes. What is vitally important, is that this taskforce consults with our industry to provide clear timelines and criteria.
“We look to this taskforce to create a robust and sustainable travel structure that can be scaled up as we progress out of the pandemic. It is vital that the system is comprehensive with the ability to be globally coordinated and recognised. A digital solution will provide transparency, efficiency and seamless movement, which will in turn, repair customer confidence and reduces the chaotic circumstances our industry navigates through on a daily basis.”