Abta boss slams government holiday warnings as travel industry awaits more bad news

Simon Calder
·3-min read
Danger zone: Zagreb in Croatia
Danger zone: Zagreb in Croatia

As the UK government prepares to add at least two more countries to the “no-go” list, the boss of Abta has described Foreign Office travel advice as “incoherent”.

Mark Tanzer, chief executive of the travel association, was speaking exclusively to The Independent on the day when Poland, Estonia and possibly other nations look set to lose their quarantine exemption.

The government applies a “double lock” intended to deter holidaymakers from visiting countries regarded as having too high a coronavirus infection rate.

Both Eastern European nations are now above the government’s threshold for exclusion: 20 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the past week. An announcement is expected at 5pm.

But each has far fewer new Covid-19 cases relative to their population than the UK, whose rate is now approaching 70.

Croatia’s score is far lower than Britain’s, at around 30 and declining. Yet prospective visitors are warned not to travel to the Adriatic nation on the grounds that its virus levels present an “unacceptably high risk”.

“It isn’t coherent when you describe it like that,” said Mr Tanzer.

“I am concerned that the Foreign Office advice, which is about the safety of British citizens in destination, is actually being merged with a quarantine policy about the danger to British citizens of people returning from that destination. They are very different things.

"The Foreign Office advice should always be about: what is the risk to an individual in that destination? And if the rate is lower there than it is at home, and they’ve got a public health system that can support people in the event that they do get ill, then I think the Foreign Office advice should be more relaxed about people being able to travel.”

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “The purpose of our travel advice is to provide information to help British people make their own informed decisions about foreign travel and keep them safe.

“It is the simplest and quickest way for travellers to check any restrictions when considering a destination, and contains the most up to date information on other countries.

“Anyone wanting our latest updates can sign up to alerts on the FCDO website or follow our travel advice social media accounts.”

The Abta boss also said that assisting the travel industry ahead of the end of the transition period is essential.

“We’re an island economy in a connected world, and if we don’t have [aviation connectivity] we’ll be going back to the stone age.”

When asked by The Independent if he believes the government cares about the travel industry, Mr Tanzer said: “We haven’t seen evidence of it yet in terms of practical support.

“We were grateful for the furlough scheme and the business loan scheme.

“We understand the government’s health priority and desire to have quarantine to keep infection rates down.

“But the travel sector was the first to be hit by the economic cost of Covid and it’s going to be the last to come out of it because of customer confidence.

“It really does need specific sector support. Every industry will be lining up saying the same thing. But the tourism sector supports the aviation sector. We’re the people who put people on the planes.”

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