Taskforce to look at restarting travel

Taskforce to look at restarting travel

The government said it would work with “UK representatives of the travel sector, including airlines and airports.”

Holidays will resume no earlier than May 17, the government has said as it laid out its roadmap for exiting lockdown.

A Department for Transport review into how to allow inbound and outbound travel to restart will report on April 12. The government said it would work with “UK representatives of the travel sector, including airlines and airports.”

The statement added that “global restrictions have hit airlines, airports, cruise and travel operators particularly hard,” but made no reference to resumption of sailings.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said restarting ravel is “vital for many businesses which have been hardest hit including retail, hospitality, tourism and aviation”, but would be subject to a review to resolve “key questions”. He said the taskforce will allow Britons to “plan for summer”.

On March 8, all pupils and college students will return fully, with before- and after-school clubs opened. On March 29, outdoor gatherings will be allowed of up to six people, or two households if this is larger, not just in parks but also gardens.

No earlier than April 12, non-essential retail, hair and nail salons, and public buildings such as libraries and museums will reopen. This stage will see the reopening of holiday lets with no shared facilities, but only for one household.

No earlier than May 17, indoor venues such as the inside of pubs and restaurants, hotels and B&Bs, cinemas and group exercise classes will reopen.

No earlier than June 22, all limits on mixing will be removed and the last sectors still closed – such as nightclubs – will reopen, while large events will be able take place.

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Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA, the Travel Association said: “The prime minister’s announcement today sets an ambition to get people travelling before the summer – which will not only be crucial for travel businesses whose revenues have been wiped out, but also for the millions of people who are desperate to travel again, whether to see friends and relatives based overseas or for a much needed holiday.

“We’re pleased to see the government has responded to our calls to engage with industry on a specific roadmap for travel, and we welcome that the Global Travel Taskforce will reconvene to work with ABTA and the wider travel industry on a plan for reopening travel.

“Even with the prospect of travel resuming, we renew our call to the chancellor to use his budget next week to provide tailored financial support to travel agents and tour operators, recognising the pressing need that travel companies have for financial assistance if they are to come through the weeks ahead.”

UKinbound’s CEO Joss Croft said: “We’re really pleased that the prime minister has listened to the industry and has included international inbound tourism in the country’s reopening roadmap. It is critical that dialog continues and that Government consults with industry when preparing its review on reopening international travel, due on April 12. As part of its review, we would ask the UK government to work with the devolved nations, as a fragmented approach will hinder recovery. To save the summer business, government needs to move quickly as it will take time for consumers to regain confidence to book a holiday to the UK and for the industry to prepare.

“However, it’s very clear that we are still months away from restarting international travel, and many more months before we see a significant recovery, and the industry therefore needs continued support. In order for our sector to survive long enough to support the UK’s economic recovery, we’re asking the chancellor to retain furlough as long as restrictions are in place, issue sector specific grants and extend Business Rate Relief, when he announces the budget on the March 3.”

Last week, it was report that the government of Greece is in talks with the UK to see if vaccination certificates could be introduced, a step that could allow international travel to resume.

The Greek tourism minister Harry Theoharis told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We are in very preliminary discussions. I’m very hopeful we can reach some sort of solution.”

“We certainly hope that with the vaccination programmes under way, and the UK is one of the leading countries in that respect […] we can have a semi-normal summer,” he said, adding: “We could recognise they have chosen to get vaccinated so there is no need to test them again and again.”

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