UK travel industry shares climb as hopes rise for green light on holidays abroad
Carriers and travel agent stocks rise as EU looks to loosen summer visitor restrictions
Airlines and travel companies’ share prices rose on Tuesday after more signals from Britain and the EU that summer holidays abroad could go ahead.
Airlines EasyJet, Lufthansa and British Airways’ owner IAG all rose in value by 3%, while travel giant TUI’s shares were up 4% in early afternoon trading. The moves followed a recommendation by the European Union to loosen the rules on visitors from abroad who were either vaccinated or coming from low-risk countries.
The British government also confirmed that an announcement on summer travel was imminent, with the industry hoping to have the “green list” of destinations – where quarantine-free travel and return will be permitted – as early as this Friday, after local elections.
Under the UK’s roadmap out of lockdown, foreign travel could be permitted as early as 17 May, although many countries may be effectively off-limits for commercial holiday flights due to strict testing and quarantine requirements. However, Portugal and Malta could be among those on the green list in a fortnight’s time.
Hopes for holidays were also boosted after leading epidemiologist Neil Ferguson told the BBC that should countries have similarly low rates “then there’s no risk associated with travelling overseas”.
England’s traffic light system: what does it mean for international holidaymakers?
Ministers say that from 17 May at the earliest international travel for leisure may be able to resume, and that countries would be placed in a traffic light system, with green, amber and red lists that would set out the rules for things such as testing and quarantining for those returning to England:
Green: passengers will not need to quarantine on return (unless they receive a positive result) but must take a pre-departure test as well as a PCR test on arrival back in the UK.
Amber: travellers will need to quarantine for 10 days, as well as taking a pre-departure test and two PCR tests (on day two and day eight) with the option of paying for a private Covid-19 test on day five (the test to release scheme) to end self-isolation early.
Red: arrivals will be subject to restrictions currently in place for red list countries, which include a 10-day stay in a managed quarantine hotel, as well as pre-departure testing and and two PCR tests.
The government says it is too early to predict which countries will be on which list over the summer. It has promised to set out “by early May” which countries will fall into which category, as well as confirming whether international travel can definitely resume from 17 May.
Which list a country is put on will depend on a number of factors including the percentage of the population that has been vaccinated, infection rates and the prevalence of “variants of concern”.
The plans have already been criticised by some in the travel industry, who said they risked creating a period when only the wealthy could afford to travel.
Trade minister Liz Truss said on Tuesday that she did “not think it will be much longer” until the travel rules are confirmed, adding: “People are looking to book a holiday but I would encourage people to wait until we make that announcement.”
Airlines have appealed for a simplified and cheaper testing regime for travel to the safer countries, while Heathrow airport has warned of long queues at the border due to the paperwork requirements once mass travel returns.
Truss said: “We need to make sure that we do have the set-up correct at the airports, that we do have the mechanisms right before we go ahead.”
The EU said on Monday it would push member states to open their borders to holidaymakers from the start of June at the latest.
The aviation industry has appealed to the UK and US governments to quickly establish a transatlantic corridor easing travel restrictions between the two countries, given the success of their vaccination programmes. In an open letter to Boris Johnson and Joe Biden, they said air travel was a “critical enabler of trade” worth almost £200bn in 2019.
Lifting travel restrictions by this June would allow 70% of normal tourist traffic to be restored by the end of the year, “generating $3.7bn and £1.9bn in incremental activity this summer for both economies and helping to restore lost jobs in the hospitality sector”.
Non-US citizens are still barred from visiting the US, while incoming travellers to the UK from the US must quarantine.
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