Travel news latest: Fury grows within travel industry after U-turn on pre-departure tests

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Travel industry bosses have blasted the Government’s reintroduction of pre-departure tests for fully vaccinated travellers returning to the UK.

The measure, which was announced over the weekend and comes into force at 4am on Tuesday, comes despite Transport Secretary Grant Shapps telling The Telegraph just a few days earlier that such a move could “kill off the travel sector again”. 

Alistair Rowland, chief executive of tour operator Blue Bay Travel, was among those criticising the Government’s actions.

He said: “Saturday’s news has come as a blow to the travel industry and to those holidaymakers who are abroad right now enjoying some much-needed winter sun and who didn’t factor into their plans, or budget, the requirement for a Covid-19 test before they fly home.”

Meanwhile, Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO of Advantage Travel Partnership, said: “Once again we are at the mercy of a Government who can’t communicate with each other”. She called the measure “a fatal bullet for many travel agents.”

In an attempt to slow the growth of the omicron variant, Ministers also agreed to place Nigeria on the travel red list from 4am this morning, requiring arrivals to quarantine for 11 nights in a government-approved hotel at a cost of up to £2,285.

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‘Make Day 2 tests free to save travel’, says travel chief

Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO of Advantage Travel Partnership, has taken to Twitter to call for free Day Two tests for travellers.

Explaining her position to The Telegraph,  she said:

We’ve been calling for free Day 2 tests to be made available throughout this current policy review period due on or before December 20.

Our understanding is the PCR change enables the Government to genome sequence the tests, but we already known the capability alongside the ability to provide results in a timely manner can at times be less than adequate from the private test providers.

The private test providers as featured on the Government list remain unmanaged with not only extortionate prices being charged but providers advertising tests from as little as 30p that do not exist – which results in them featuring at the top of the list. Nothing more than a practise of clickbaiting. 

Free tests for a period of time ensures the government achieves its objectives, doesn’t continuously penalise travellers unnecessarily and would give the travel industry – the UK’s third largest employer – some respite. 

The 11 hotel quarantine red list countries

Nigeria is the latest African country to be added to the red list, due to fears over the omicron variant. Here is the full list of countries subject to hotel quarantine and flight bans. 

  1. South Africa
  2. Botswana
  3. Namibia
  4. Zimbabwe
  5. Eswatini (formerly Swaziland)
  6. Lesotho
  7. Angola
  8. Mozambique
  9. Malawi
  10. Zambia
  11. Nigeria

Pre-departure testing reaction: ‘Chaos and uncertainty for travellers’

More travel industry chiefs have been reacting to the reintroduction of pre-departure testing for all passengers. 

British Airways’ Chairman and CEO Sean Doyle said:

“The blanket re-introduction of testing to enter the UK, on top of the current regime of isolation and PCR testing on arrival is completely out of step with the rest of the world, with every other country taking a measured approach based on the science. Our customers will now be faced with uncertainty and chaos and yet again this a devastating blow for everyone who works in the travel industry.”

Hundreds stranded in red list countries as quarantine hotels run out of space

Ministers are racing to expand quarantine hotels, with hundreds of Britons stuck abroad in red-listed countries because the Government has run out of space.

Some travellers stranded in South Africa say they have been told they will have to wait until Dec 13 before any quarantine hotels are ready for them – forcing them to spend hundreds of pounds more on bed and board abroad.

Travel industry sources claimed Nigeria was added to the red list at the weekend even though there was not enough quarantine hotel capacity for the extra passengers.

Anyone returning from any of the 11 red-listed countries has to spend 11 nights in a quarantine hotel at a cost of up to £2,285. It is understood arrivals at Heathrow have to be bussed to Milton Keynes and Luton because hotels around the airport have spurned quarantine in favour of paying Christmas guests.

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