Britain's government intends to keep its red list of Covid-19 quarantine countries, and the country will be “better for it” industry leaders have been told.
Dale Keller, chief executive of the UK Board of Airline Representatives, said the list was useful as it allowed the government to react speedily to the changing international situation.
The red list deters travel to some countries as it means passengers landing in the UK must quarantine in a government-sanctioned hotel at their own expense. It is the last remaining aspect of the traffic light system implemented for travellers after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted.
Earlier this year there were about 150 countries on the red list. Now there are only seven — Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
“I don’t think we’ll see the red list vanishing and we don’t really support that because it’s a great mechanism for the government to have at its disposal,” Mr Keller said.
“You’re better off to have a red list than to start imposing restrictions when we’ve worked so hard to get them off.
“Whether or not there are countries on the list, you don’t want to remove the red list from policy because it allows the government to react quickly without applying a more intensive regime across the rest of world.”
However, Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultants The PC Agency, called Mr Keller’s comments at the Latin American Travel Association Expo “bizarre”.
And Julia Simpson, president of the World Travel and Tourism Council, said: “They’ve got to absolutely get rid of the red list. We don’t need it.”
“We can assess people on an individual basis now. If people are double vaccinated they should be able to travel quite freely,” she added.
Back at Expo, Gary Cohen, from Peak DMC, admitted to “mixed feelings” about keeping the red list.
“If you look at the Covid and vaccination stats of Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Panama, they’re actually doing well. Most compare favourably to the UK.
“We had information from the British ambassador in Peru that suggested it’s primarily due to ‘variants of interest’ first identified in Peru and Colombia. Those variants have been around for over a year. They haven’t become dominant strains, haven’t had much impact and have been present in many other countries.”