Government ‘moving goalposts’ on travel to amber destinations

Trade bodies have accused the government of mixed messages and ‘moving the goalposts’ on travel to amber destinations.

Abta said the advice from ministers in recent days not to travel to amber list destinations did not tally with government’s ‘sensible’ traffic light system which allowed for international travel to restart from May 17.

The Travel Network Group said the lack of clarity was further damaging consumer confidence while the pilots’ union Balpa said the government must “end the damaging mixed messages”.

And the Labour leader also called for “absolute clarity” on the amber list during prime minister’s question time on Wednesday (May 19).

Sir Keir Starmer highlighted the recent confusing comments from Boris Johnson and other ministers, saying:“The government has lost control of the messaging.”

He also said the Labour Party has been calling for a blanket hotel quarantine “for months”, adding that experts have called the UK’s border controls during the pandemic “a joke” and flights are still coming in from India.

The accusations follow Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer’s comments to Travel Weekly that Foreign Office advice remains ‘the ultimate reference’ for consumer and the industry on amber destinations.

Meanwhile, EU ambassadors have reportedly backed plans to allow non-essential travel from third countries with low infection rates – with a list expected to be agreed this week.

In a fresh statement, Abta said: “It doesn’t make sense for the government to tell people they shouldn’t travel to amber destinations when the government itself has put a plan in place that allows them to do this in a risk managed way, with mitigations such as testing and quarantine.

“The recent comments and mixed messages from ministers undermine the government’s own system for international travel and further erode consumer confidence.”

It added: “While we understand that public health is the priority, the government has moved the goalposts on the return to international travel.

“International travel is now legal again and the traffic light system needs to be allowed to work as originally intended.”

Gary Lewis, chief executive of The Travel Network Group, said the industry and holidaymakers ‘urgently needed clarity’ on how to interpret the traffic light system.

He said: “Since the ban on international travel was lifted on Monday, five different MPs or ministers have given comments giving different accounts of how the guidance should be interpreted and in what situations leisure travel is acceptable.

“This lack of clarity and mixed messages is further damaging consumer confidence in travel and hindering the recovery of the outbound tourism sector.

“We support the government’s cautious approach to reopening travel but need a clear message on how the traffic light system should be applied to leisure travel and in what circumstances travel to each category is deemed acceptable.”

Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said described the mixed messages as a ‘kick’ to an industry that has been ‘down for over a year’.

Brian Strutton, general secretary of the pilots’ union Balpa, said: “There’s no doubt that the public has been confused by the traffic light system for international travel, but we had hoped that government ministers at the very least would understand it.

“They have finally confirmed this morning that people can take personal responsibility for whether to travel to amber list countries.

“The aviation and travel sector has been decimated by the government’s confused policies and it must feel like slow torture for the British public desperate to have a summer break.

“At the next review in a week’s time the government must either open more routes including to the US or compensate the aviation and travel sectors for killing their businesses.

“And they must finally end the damaging mixed messages.”

However, Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, tweeted: “Government is rightly under criticism for travel confusion. But it did clearly state ‘You should not travel to amber list countries for leisure purposes’ when the list launched. It’s what led On the Beach to stop selling holidays. Jet2 is also on pause. The message was clear.”

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