Tourism and aviation bosses have called on new Health Secretary Sajid Javid to throw businesses a lifeline by easing travel restrictions.
In a letter written by Tim Alderslade, head of trade body Airlines UK, they urged the Cabinet minister to expand the green list of foreign countries to which tourists can travel without having to quarantine on their return.
The letter noted that the UK is the third most internationally connected country in the world, and that the travel industry generates around £53 billion in domestic spending each year.
“The pandemic has been a catastrophe for our industry and the wider economy,” it said.
It added that international travel sustained 1.5 million jobs prior to the pandemic, but warned “hundreds of thousands of jobs have now been lost, and many more remain at risk”.
The 14 signatories to the letter included chief executive of the Association of British Travel Agents Mark Tanzer, director of Tourism Alliance Kurt Janson, as well as Prospect union general secretary Mike Clancy, and Unite union assistant general secretary Diana Holland.
The industry leaders said the Government must expand the green list in line with advice from its advisory body, the Global Travel Taskforce.
The letter also said the Government must make restrictions “more proportionate, whilst keeping a strong red list to guard against variants”.
The signatories also called for more financial support, including the extension of the furlough scheme, “that recognises that the travel sector’s ability to trade and generate income is much slower than anticipated”.
“We implore you and your Cabinet colleagues to act decisively to save jobs and businesses, and to set the industry on the road to recovery in a risk-based manner,” they said.
The letter compared the UK’s approach to that of other countries which have eased restrictions even with lower rates of vaccination.
“We are encouraged that the Government has confirmed an intention to relax rules for fully vaccinated people travelling from amber destinations, and to remove statements discouraging travelling to these places,” it said.
“However, these changes must be implemented quickly – at the latest alongside the lifting of domestic restrictions in July – if they are to make a meaningful difference to the UK travel industry.”
The signatories added that they are encouraged by reports that the Government is considering recognising the EU’s vaccine certificate scheme designed to lift barriers to international tourism.