UK travel industry ‘flattened’ protests government restrictions


Thousands of pilots, travel agents, tour operators, travel agency staff and guides have protested across the UK against UK government restrictions on international travel.

Hundreds of people from the industry gathered outside Westminster in London, holding up signs and calling on the government to start listening.

They are demanding that the government relax restrictions on the so-called traffic light system for international travel. Countries are categorized as green, orange, or red based on their perceived COVID-19 risk status.

Only a handful of countries have achieved green status, making it difficult for Britons to travel abroad. Amber List countries require a minimum of five days of home quarantine when people return to the UK.

The government says it plans to allow people who have received two vaccines to travel without quarantine upon their return.

Association for Touring and Adventure Specialists President Brian Young said, “The travel industry has been on hold for 15 months.

Adding: “We had the opportunity last summer to open up, but it only lasted a short time.”

Young explains that the government caused travel chaos when it reintroduced the traffic light system a month ago, but in three weeks Portugal has gone from green to orange.

“You then had this stampede with people trying to get back to the UK to go past the self-isolation deadline,” Young said. “It costs them money, it’s stressful and the ripple effect on consumer confidence is huge.”

Incoming tour operators also say they are suffering because foreign tourists do not want to travel to the UK.

Kate Underwheel is an independent tour guide in London. She says her area has been “absolutely flattened” and she hasn’t had a job since February of last year.

“It touched everything about tourism in London, restaurants, cafes and hotels. It touched Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London and Windsor Castle.

The government will announce on Thursday if there will be any changes to its green list of countries, but there is little optimism in the industry.

Hundreds of people, including pilots, cabin crew and travel agents, gathered outside Parliament. / CGTN Europe

Hundreds of people, including pilots, cabin crew and travel agents, gathered outside Parliament. / CGTN Europe

The industry is calling on the government to expand the green travel list and extend the leave scheme until April next year.

The travel industry estimates that nearly 200,000 jobs are at stake in the UK, along with hundreds of thousands of jobs that depend on the industry as a whole for survival.

“It’s not just about the UK economy, but also the communities around the world where our tours are held,” said Young.

As the travel industry looks to Europe, which has already reopened for the summer, desperation and frustration grows.

“The UK is one of the best-vaccinated countries in the world and I think you need a system that will give people the confidence to book,” Young adds.

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