The chairman of the Latin American Travel Association has described the partial removal of the region from the UK’s red list as a”huge relief” but said the association was still pressing to discover the rationale for the retention of seven nations on the list.
Speaking during the Lata Expo virtual trade event, which had the theme Ready for Restart, Colin Stewart said the changes to the red list were “a huge relief to many of our travel partners, especially those who are Latin America specialists and haven’t been able to trade at all for many months”, adding “we are delighted that progress has been made”.
But he added: “We still however want to seek clarity on the criteria used to decide the remaining countries on the red list. Based on the data we have, we don’t understand the justification for some of these destinations being included on this list. It’s also a shame that this decision was not taken earlier before the end of furlough.”
Stewart’s comments echo those of Lata chief executive Danny Callaghan immediately after the government’s recent announcement. Callaghan said the retention of seven countries on the red list, including Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Panama, “beggared belief”, noting how hard the region had been hit by UK travel retrictions.
Stewart said the Ready for Restart theme for the Expo was “a bit of a no-brainer” based on that impact.
“I think there’s so much good happening within Latin America and certain countries are doing wonderful things in terms of managing the virus and putting protocols in place to ensure that it’s safe and secure to travel,” he said.
In addition to meetings and business sessions, this year’s Lata Expo als included a travel agent programme, which Stewart said reflected the importance of agents to the association and its desire to expand its agent engagement activities.
He lauded the success of the initiatives the association has been running for travel agents, including the ‘6 minute snapshot’ videos. “It’s actually been an eye opener for them to see in situ the fantastic array of product and offering available to them for selling Latin America,” he said. “It’s been something that we’re glad that we did. Engagement has been great, and we’re absolutely going to continue that moving forward.”
The association also plans to run roadshows for agents in 2022.
Lata has also taken a lobbying role throughout the pandemic, in collaboration with other travel and tourism associations and companies, which it will continue.
“I think we realised we do have a voice but actually it’s a louder voice when we come together,” he said.