2 AUGUST 2021
© 2022 Business Travel News Ltd.
Over the last 18 months John Holland-Kaye has been the effective spokesman in many ways for the travel industry, not only lobbying government but keeping the public aware of the serious predicament for staff, the support industries and investors of the dilemma faced by his and every airport and airline.
This August BTN ON THE SOAPBOX is in some ways a summary of where we are, a look into the future and a condemnation of the testing costs. Ministers and Civil Servants read BTN. They go on holiday too. They should read his words. They are worth taking in.
"Cause for optimism has often been hard to come by for the travel industry during the past 18 months. Frequently, it has felt as though we have taken one step forward, only for the goalposts to move causing uncertainty for passengers and British businesses. However, this week’s announcement that US and EU travellers no longer need to quarantine is game-changing news. Heathrow can now reopen 65% of our traffic routes, businesses can look forward to the much-needed boost of inbound tourism income and separated loved ones can at last reunite. With passengers who travel through our airport typically accounting for more than £16 billion of spending across the UK, and with American tourists alone spending almost £3.7 billion, the further reopening of our skies will help to protect livelihoods up and down the country and kickstart the UK’s economic recovery.
We are fortunate within the UK to have enjoyed one of the world’s most successful rollouts. This gives us the tools and protection we need to start getting back to a more normal way of life. Trials recently conducted at our airport, alongside British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, have shown how airlines can carry out the checks of both digital and paper vaccine certification documents for EU and US passengers. Having proved these checks can be conducted on departure, reducing the bottleneck at the border, and restoring trade links that have been all but severed since March 2020, further low-risk destinations with trusted vaccine programmes such as Canada should now be added to the list. Inbound tourism is a vital industry for our country, usually worth £28 billion to the economy and a major part of British trade. Allowing quarantine-free travel from the EU and US is a vital leap forward, but we can now start looking to open up safely to fully vaccinated passengers from more destinations.
Alongside the need for further additions to the quarantine-free list, the high cost of testing remains for many, an insurmountable barrier to travel. Heathrow fully supports policies that continue to manage Covid – the health of our sector depends on the health of the British public. However, for the country that pioneered the low-cost flying revolution, we cannot let travel become an activity that only the wealthy can enjoy. Moving to cheaper and effective lateral flow tests for low-risk destinations will keep people safe, but also ensure many hard-working travellers get the breaks they deserve. And Ministers can go further, matching industry’s efforts to cut the cost of PCR testing by removing unnecessary VAT. These moves will level the ground between the UK and its European competitors, enabling the UK’s aviation industry to play its part in the country’s post-pandemic recovery.
Whilst the economic need for relaxing travel restrictions is pressing, so too is the personal one. Eighteen months into this pandemic and millions of loved ones across the globe remain separated. Born out of a desire to reunite family and friends, Heathrow has launched the ‘Come Fly Again’ initiative and teamed up with over ten industry partners including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, to make thousands of pounds worth of free flights and experiences available to passengers. At the heart of what we do at Heathrow is to connect people, and with one in three telling us friends and family are the driving force behind wanting to travel again, we are determined to lend a helping hand. As more countries hit their vaccine rollout milestones, we can continue to restore connections, reunite loved ones and re-energise British businesses. In doing so, the UK will cement its economic recovery, whilst protecting the future of one of this country’s greatest industries."
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