Which? warns consumers could be overlooked in plans to restart international travel

Consumer group Which? is calling on the government to listen to consumer's concerns about international travel

FILE PHOTO: People queue to enter terminal 2, as tighter rules for international travellers start, at Heathrow Airport, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, London, Britain, January 18, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo
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Plans to restart foreign trips could be doomed if the UK government does not consult travellers and reassure them that trips abroad will be safe, affordable and refundable if cancelled, a consumer group says.

The government’s Global Travel Taskforce is due to outline how it will restart international travel, set to reopen no earlier than May 17, when it publishes its report in early April.

But the consumer group, Which?, is concerned that limited consultation with travellers could mean their concerns will not be addressed before international travel reopens.

Today, the group is publishing its list of consumer priorities for travel.

They focus on vital measures to build passengers' confidence about travel safety, accessible and affordable Covid-19 tests, vaccine passports and assurances that they will be refunded for coronavirus travel disruption.

Which? is also urging people to share their experiences with the taskforce, through email or social media, of how the pandemic has affected their travel plans over the past year and their concerns before travel reopens.

For more than a year, the consumer group has been hearing from people who have been let down by their travel provider after the pandemic grounded most international travel, which saw confidence in the industry plunge to a record low.

The Competition and Markets Authority said cancellations and refunds accounted for by far the most complaints to the regulator since April 2020.

The authority received about 47,000 cancellation complaints about holiday companies since March 2020, and more than 10,000 about airlines.

"Confidence in overseas travel has plummeted as a result of the pandemic, and government interventions for the industry and passengers who have been let down by their operator or airline have been woefully insufficient," said Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel.

“The taskforce has a real opportunity to give passengers the confidence to travel again, but it must take their concerns into consideration or else it risks another disastrous summer for passengers and industry."

Which? is also concerned that travellers could face huge costs for testing, which is likely to be required for entry into most destinations this summer.

Most countries now require a negative test before departure and a follow-up on arrival.

Passengers must also have a negative test to return to the UK, and further tests on days two and eight of quarantine.

PCR private tests cost about £120 ($165) each and the possibility of tourists needing up to five tests could price them out of travelling.

Which? also found that test costs in the UK are considerably higher than in other countries.

It found that the cost of tests were much lower in popular destinations across Europe, on average, compared to the UK.

In Italy, for example, the average cost is €86 ($101) a test.