15 FEBRUARY 2021


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Article from BTNews 15 FEBRUARY 2021

ON THE SOAPBOX: Mark Tanzer, chief executive ABTA

ABTA is the internationally recognised voice of the British travel industry, its members employing 2.6m staff. ABTA has more than 4,300 travel brands in Membership, providing a wide range of leisure and business travel services, with a combined annual UK turnover of £39 billion. Across media all were vocal in responding to the comments made by the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, on booking holidays.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA's chief executive, is emphatic:  “The travel industry can’t wait,” he says.

“We are clear that the travel industry can’t wait for the full rollout of the vaccine programme before people start to travel again. Another summer season lost to the pandemic would be disastrous for the sector. The Government needs to work with the travel industry to develop a route forward to opening up travel.

There are two sides to this – firstly following the medicine, understanding whether vaccines are effective against new variants and whether if you have been vaccinated you are capable of transmitting the disease. It is this information that destinations wishing to accept UK travellers will be particularly keen to understand.

Secondly, there is how you facilitate travel once people have been vaccinated. Having the option to obtain some sort of vaccine certificate will be important because this evidence, alongside testing, is likely to be part of the way to re-open travel. We would like to see the Government work with the industry on how can we have a voluntary certificate that will be able to demonstrate that you’ve been vaccinated, meaning you don’t have to test or quarantine. That would be a real incentive to get people travelling again. We already know that some overseas governments such as Greece and Cyprus are looking at proof of vaccination as a way for travellers to avoid testing and quarantine requirements.

We should also remember that having a vaccine certificate isn’t a new idea. There are examples that already exist for viral diseases, such as yellow fever, where there is an internationally recognised standard of certification that you have been vaccinated.

I understand concerns around discrimination and data privacy, which is why any vaccine certificate should be optional. The Government has asked people to participate in the vaccination scheme and in the test and trace programme; people who have done so have the right to their personal data.
While I strongly believe that being vaccinated, and having evidence of it that is recognised internationally, must be part of the solution to reopening travel – it cannot be the only route. There needs to be other ways, such as a practical and cost-effective testing regime, to allow those who are yet to be vaccinated to travel."


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OUR READERS' FINEST WORDS (All times and dates are GMT)

All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum

Anne Smith, West Ham

A very good piece but how do you deal with one government minister who has booked his holiday (in Cornwall) and another who says don’t make any firm arrangements.

Celia Smith, South London

We really do want some action from Mr Tanzer. As the owner of a small high street travel agency, I don’t see us reopening when the time comes. We offer/offered a personalised service to our customers. On-line it will not be the same.