The Sunday Times at the weekend reported on a UKGov poll showing that 76% of people thought it worth sacrificing overseas holiday, to keep the UK unlocked.
So as an industry should we listen to our customers and supposed “Experts” to stay shut, irrespective of the financial damage done?
But when did it become an either/or in terms of overseas holidays or a safe UK?
Of course, if you ask customers a question phrased in this way, who wouldn’t vote to stay unlocked?
Where is the evidence that travel represents such a massive risk to a vaccinated population?
Sorry, but it’s not been presented and instead, we have just had scientific posturing and the usual “drip, drip, drip leaks” from Government officials. They are clearly trying to set public expectation, even though the full travel review will not be issued to the trade until the 12th of April. Truly frustrating, given the devastating impact on forward bookings it’s had.
As an industry, we need to demand a “Risk-Based” approach with clear rules stating the criteria to be used in deciding risk levels and how destinations will be allocated to Green, Amber airbridges and Red no go zones.
Fortunately, the Government last summer recognised the need to operate airbridges at a destination/Island level, rather than illogically applying blanket countrywide rulings, when location like the Canaries are nowhere near Mainland Spain.
In my opinion, the best the industry can hope for in terms of short-haul travel is to keep the Balearic, Canaries and Greek Islands in green/amber zones, as it's unlikely travel will be possible to mainland Europe if a third wave of Corona Virus continues to take route.
Few customers will want to travel to the destinations, where Covid restriction’s reduce restaurant or bar opening hours, as the whole point of a holiday is to escape and enjoy holiday life. The Governments biggest Covid travel policeman will be customers themselves.
Scientists tell us that a fist vaccination jab gives 65% protection, which increases to 90% after a second jab. As the UK has seen, increasing vaccinations levels dramatically reduces the death rate and the rate of Covid-19 spread.
Most holiday destinations will welcome UK customers with either a health passport showing 2 jabs or a negative PCR Test.
Using simplistic maths, if we take an average Vaccination protection of 75%, then 25% of customers carry some risk of infection and therefore it is important to limit Green destination to locations that have similarly low infection rates. However, imposing rapid flow tests 72 hours before return and again after 5 days of quarantine, should allow a much larger range of amber destination to go on sale, as the combination of vaccination and testing should provide a high degree of protection against importing Covid.
The Government righty fears Covid mutations resistant to Vaccination, however as demonstrated by the highly contagious Kent mutation, most aren’t resistant and like flu, we will have to amend the vaccination and continue to vaccinate the county against new strains each year.
We cannot be locked down by a fear of the unknown when that unknown is going to be with us forever.
Politicians’ behaviour is driven by public opinion and if we allow Government to drive a fear led agenda without challenge, we will stay closed until at least August. It’s time to fight fear, with a “risk lead” approach using, logic and science, but balanced by economic damage.
As an industry, we need to remove the stigma of going on holiday being a “selfish” act, by embracing testing and minimal quarantine as the key ways to protect against imported Covid outbreaks. Expecting large amounts of "Green" airbridges requiring nothing more than a Vaccination passport is not realistic for Summer 21.
This summer, let’s be clear that overseas holidays are a “life or death” issue for large swaths of a travel industry that desperately needs some summer 21 cash to get through the dark winter ahead before we enjoy a travel bonanza in Summer 22.