The ‘hassle factor’ and availability of Covid PCR tests and fear of quarantine are as much a barrier to travel this summer as the extra cost, according to the trade.
PCR tests will be required pre-departure and after arrival back in the UK for all holidaymakers travelling to green, amber or red countries under the government’s planned traffic light system, due to come into force from May 17.
These currently cost from £60 per person to more than £200, although the government has pledged to drive down the cost.
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Amanda Matthews, managing director of agency Designer Travel, said finding a local centre to get a PCR test before departure was more of a concern for clients in the luxury sector.
She said: “Our clients are not worried at all about the costs of the PCR test. It’s the availability and the ‘hassle factor’. You’ve got to find somewhere [to get a test]. And it’s the availability of these tests.”
She highlighted the difficulties holidaymakers faced last year to get tested prior to departure.
“Now with every country you’ve got to have one [test] before you go…where are all these tests going to take place, regardless of the money, if they’ve all got to be done within 72 hours? I just think trying to get one of those tests is not going to be practical, which is why I think we’ll end up moving to lateral flow tests,” she said.
But she warned quarantine was the real ‘show stopper’ and could act as a barrier to her company’s clients travelling this summer.
She said: “If you’re on an amber list, a lot of clients can’t afford to come back and quarantine, even for five days, and do the test and release. I’m just hoping we don’t end up with quarantine roulette, like we had last summer.”
Nick Hughes, sales director for Gold Medal and Travel 2 parent dnata Travel B2B Europe, agreed the cost of PCR tests was less of a factor for higher spending holidaymakers, but said it could determine whether other customers go abroad.
He said: “It depends on what you want to spend on your holiday. To take a PCR test on the way and on the return for four adults you are looking at £480. To some people that is a make or break decision, others will say it’s only 2%, 3% or 5% of what I’m paying anyway so I’ll just pay to get away.”
News that prices were likely to come down was “promising”, he added, but he stressed that cheaper lateral flow tests were needed to allow all travel to go ahead. “The true way we’re going to get people away is by looking at the lateral flow tests,” he said.
Meanwhile, Giles Hawke, chief executive of Cosmos and Avalon, feared the paperwork involved in testing could be ‘overwhelming’.
He said: “The challenge will be if hundreds and thousands of people choose to go [on holiday]. We will be overwhelmed with the red tape and the paperwork as people are going through airports both ways in the testing.
“The risk is we’re creating this administrative burden for the authorities at one level that is never going to be manageable.”
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