Travel rules drops UK among worst performing countries for tourism

Ministers are being urged to scrap rule for expensive PCR tests

The UK's tourism industry is among the world's worst performing amid continued travel restrictions, data shows. PA
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The UK’s travel restrictions are having a more damaging impact on its tourism industry, compared with other nations, figures show.

Spending by international visitors to Britain is forecast to drop nearly 50 per cent this year from 2020, the London-based World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) said.

This is making the UK “one of the worst performing countries in the world”, the council said.

The damning assessment of how the rules are affecting the ailing sector comes after the UK government rolled back another set of measures earlier this week.

The country’s red list of nations off-limits for non-essential travel was reduced to seven and testing requirements for fully-vaccinated travellers arriving in the UK were scaled back.

Ministers also agreed to accept vaccine certificates from dozens of countries, opening up travel for millions of people.

The WTTC said that the travel and tourism industry’s contribution to the UK’s economy may rise year-on-year by about 32 per cent in 2021, which is broadly in line with the rest of the global average.

But it argued that partial recovery is being driven by the boom in domestic holidays, which is not enough to achieve a full economic recovery and save millions of jobs under threat.

The WTTC branded UK testing and quarantine policies “destructive”, saying the rules have caused the country to trail the US and China when it comes to a recovery in tourism.

The group said the US and China are “set to see a rise in inbound international travel spending this year” but offered a more dismal outlook for Britain.

Julia Simpson, WTTC's president and chief executive, said travellers are deterred by expensive PCR tests, which have to be taken two days after arrival, regardless of vaccination status.

Grant Shapps, the UK’s transport secretary, last week said the government hopes to swap PCRs for less-expensive lateral flow tests in time for the school holidays on October 22.

Scraping mandatory PCRs could save families up to £200 ($272) per trip.

“WTTC research shows that while the global travel and tourism sector is beginning to recover, the UK continues to suffer big losses due to continuing travel restrictions that are tougher than the rest of Europe,” Ms Simpson said.

“Despite government announcements, the UK still has a red list, costly PCR tests and a requirement for day-two tests which simply put people off travel.

“Just as the world opens up, the UK has more requirements for the double vaccinated than our neighbours.”

The coronavirus crisis has led to the loss of about 307,000 tourism jobs in Britain.

Updated: November 22, 2021, 9:08 AM