Travel agents ‘the fall guys’ for government traffic light decision

Agents have reacted angrily to again having to bring clients home early without the promised advance notice from government.

The trade said leaked news of the traffic light change for Portugal and Madeira was “totally out of the blue” and had led to a repeat of situations experienced last year with the travel corridor system.

Advantage Travel Partnership leisure director Kelly Cookes said: “This is exactly what we wanted to avoid and what the green watch list was supposed to prevent.

“As before, the industry found out at the same time as consumers, via the media, and this makes it much harder to support customers, both those out in the destination and those due to travel imminently.”

Miles Morgan Travel chairman Miles Morgan said: “We are the fall guys. We managed to switch our customers’ flights but no one saw this coming.”

Paul Hardwick, head of commercial at Fred Olsen Travel, said the agency’s clients in resort were travelling back before the June 8 change but said staff had been busy on Friday contacting “multiple sets” of customers due to travel to Portugal.

“In some cases this is the third or fourth time we’ve amended the same booking,” he said. “All have asked to amend, with most opting for next year.”

Polka Dot Travel director Mark Johnson said: “Agents are caught in a vicious circle that seems to never end.

“They are constantly fielding calls for people booked to travel but not in a position to quarantine.

“The whole idea of the traffic light system was so international travel could restart safely with everyone working together.
“[The government] has just ripped all of that up and put it in the bin.”

Gemma Antrobus, owner of Haslemere Travel, was similarly shocked but urged agents to target clients willing to travel to amber destinations, provided it was not against Foreign Office (FCDO) advice, instead of “navel-gazing”.

Writing in this week’s Travel Weekly, she said: “We need to make travelling to an amber destination seem far more straightforward than the government has deemed it to be. Normalising amber is the way forward.”

Tate Travel owner Lee Tate warned clients may rebel this summer by not quarantining when they return from amber destinations. “People have got Covid-fatigue,” he said.

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