UK travel sector wants help as Omicron curbs introduced
LONDON, Dec 7, 2021 (AFP) – Britain’s beleaguered travel industry called Tuesday for government assistance to soften the blow of the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) said the latest travel curbs, rolled out Tuesday to try to prevent transmission, risked holiday firms going bust.
“As additional travel restrictions come into force today, ABTA says the latest measures could tip some companies over the edge, forcing them to close their doors for good,” the group said in a statement.
The industry body “calls on the government to step up to provide financial support for the industry” following the latest travel restrictions.
Under the new curbs, anyone travelling to the UK will have to show evidence of a negative lateral flow or PCR test taken within the 48 hours before boarding a flight.
This will apply to travellers aged 12 and over from any country. Currently travellers have to take a PCR test within two days of arrival.
Britain at the weekend placed Nigeria on its red travel list that requires travellers to quarantine in hotels upon their return.
Ten southern African nations were already on the list.
The global travel sector was hit hard when the pandemic erupted in early 2020. Demand for international travel slumped and planes were grounded.
It has staged a gradual recovery as skies reopened and economies emerged from lockdowns, but Omicron now looms large.
“It was only in recent weeks that the industry had started seeing the beginnings of a recovery following the relaxation of travel rules in October,” ABTA said Tuesday.
“But the return of pre-departure tests and PCR tests on or before day two of arrival, means the industry is back to where it was in the summer.
“Now a third winter season is under threat and once again there is weak consumer confidence.”
ABTA also warned that travel company revenues are currently running at just 22 percent of their pre-pandemic level, on average.
Employment in the industry has halved since March 2020, it added.
ABTA boss Mark Tanzer also urged the government to re-introduce its furlough jobs subsidy scheme for the sector.
“Public health must come first but the government should be looking to soften the blow to travel companies by providing financial support in the shape of grants and the return of furlough for travel staff,” Tanzer said.
The UK government in September ended its furlough jobs support programme that kept millions of private sector workers in their roles during the pandemic.
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