(CNN) – Across Europe, beaches prepare for their first socially distant foreign visitors, and hotels ventilate rooms and restaurants setting up outdoor tables. With the borders now open, the travel industry is trying to save as much of the peak tourist season as possible.
Currently, almost everyone is invited, but despite the alluring prospects of the Mediterranean seas and blue skies, one country is not coming – and people are very angry about that.
For the United Kingdom, it seems that summer vacations can still be canceled.
Even as it appears to be emerging from one of the continent’s worst outbreaks of coronavirus, the country has decided to suddenly shut its borders by imposing a 14-day quarantine that critics say will destroy the last pieces of hope for the travel industry.
Unless the rules change soon, millions of Britons who had hoped to ease post-shutdown depression while fleeing to warmer climates would have to cancel their plans unless they wanted to endure forced isolation upon their return or risking a £ 1,000 fine – about $ 1,250.
For the UK tourism industry, any possibility of absorbing some of the much-needed foreign tourism dollars is fading quickly. Britain has many magic, but a two-week prison inside the same room is not the reason people visit this Crusader island.
If that wasn’t enough to stir frustration, and seems to be far from strictly enforced, the new regulations will only be monitored after they come into effect on June 8, with spot checks that may already miss the virus carriers they designed to keep them locked up.
This is in contrast to the more stringent measures in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong, which were imposed much earlier than the epidemic.
There are allegations that visitors or returnees may be able to benefit from “Dodging Dublin”, because arrivals from the Republic of Ireland will be exempt from quarantine. In theory, they can travel anywhere and cross through the nearby UK neighbor.
“Sharp economic instrument”
Greece opens its beaches and welcomes foreign visitors.
Byron Smith / Getty Images
The rules came too late for some, as questions were raised as to why Britain’s borders remained wide open during the height of the virus, and are now restricted only as the country relaxes social restrictions.
“There is no doubt that the quarantine should have been imposed at the beginning of the epidemic in early March, because at that time it would have been more effective,” says Paul Charles, founder and CEO of the PC agency, which represents tourism councils including Ireland. New Zealand and Finland in the United Kingdom, as well as brands and major operators.
“If you look at countries that have successfully overcome the coronavirus, like New Zealand and Vietnam, they have something in common. They put the quarantine at first right away. That was WHO’s advice. But our government never did. So we can understand why They do this now when the Covid-19 states drop and also when there is now a test and tracking system in place … they use a blunt economic tool to try to keep the cases low. “
There are some exceptions to the quarantine rules. Truck drivers, Covid-19 front-line health care workers and elite athletes coming for football, biologically safe cricket matches or the British F1 Grand Prix will be released in late July.
Everyone else will be required to fill out a form before arrival, despite a fine of £ 100, and provide the government with an address of where they intend to be removed for two weeks.
While a £ 1,000 fine will be imposed on those who violate the conditions in the UK, only one-fifth of travelers are expected to receive instant checks. The Metropolitan Police, which covers London, said it had no time to impose it.
Some conditions of the stone raised more questions about its potential efficacy. Upcoming travelers will be able to go to their destination on public transportation and leave their accommodations to shop for essentials. In Hong Kong, arrivals are given a prison-style wristband and are required not to leave their government-mandated room for two weeks.
“The right move, the wrong time”
Restaurants are opening again in France, where border restrictions have been lifted to other European Union countries.
Bertrand Guay / AFPe via Getty Images
So why now? The UK government says quarantine is being introduced in June precisely because other countries are opening up, and says this means a higher risk of new coronavirus cases coming from abroad.
“The travelers from abroad can become a high proportion of the total number of infections in the United Kingdom, thus increasing the spread of the disease,” British Home Secretary Pretty Battle told parliament on Wednesday.
Her announcement drew condemnation from members of the ruling Conservative Party and the main opposition Labor Party. Lawmaker Liam Fox, the former conservative commerce minister, called it an “unnecessary economic isolation” that would hinder recovery after the virus.
“If this barrier is required, why was it not introduced earlier in the outbreak?” he added. Conservative MP Steve Brain called it “the right step at the wrong time.”
This is an opinion echoed by George Morgan-Greenville, CEO of tour operator Red Savannah. He says: “By pursuing its quarantine plans without giving due consideration to the economic consequences, the government chooses to ignore the devastation that companies, labor and the lives of all those who will lose their jobs will cause.”
“I think it’s too late,” says Brian Young, managing director of G Adventures, which offers small group tours around the world. “The impact on this entire sector is knocking on customer confidence. It takes some time to start things up. If the quarantine continues after the end of June, the summer season will be completely lost. Places like Greece are highly dependent on tourism and cannot afford to lose the whole summer.”
Patel defended her government’s measures against questions about why not previously quarantined to prevent tens of thousands of people who continued to enter the country when the Covid-19 infection was rising.
“Some people suggested that public health measures should have been introduced when the virus was at its peak. But at the time the scientific advice was clear that such measures would have made little difference when the transmission spread locally,” she told parliament.
The government’s argument for applying quarantine has now been met with infidelity from the broader travel industry.
About 300 companies, including luxury brands Black Tomato and Kuoni, as well as major players such as Travelbag and Netflights, have backed a message to Patel calling for quarantine before it is implemented, saying it will destroy a sector already already suffering from an outbreak.
A new survey of 124 UK business owners and travel and hospitality executives found that 60% expect staff to become redundant when measures come into effect. 94% think summer bookings will disappear if quarantine is imposed. Meanwhile, 99% believe that politics will harm the economy. Tourism accounts for about four million jobs in the UK, 11% of the total workforce.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said his country would advise against unnecessary travel to the UK as long as the quarantine procedures are in place.
People arriving in the UK will be allowed to travel to their quarantined place by public transport.
TOLGA AKMEN / AFP via Getty Images
Myriam Petrnik McCartney, CEO of Lemongrass Marketing Communications, puts things in strict terms. And she warned that “tour operators suffer, transport companies suffer, hotel owners suffer, and British cities that welcome international tourists, such as London and Oxford, will see many companies totally dependent on tourism collapse.”
Robin Shephard, founder and president of the Bespoke Hotels Group, the UK’s largest independent hotel group, says he is puzzled by timing.
“If it had come around March 23, I would have understood it, but presenting it now, inaccurately, seems very foolish,” he said. “I do not disagree with the original feeling, it is not the right time. Not listening to the public reaction to this and modifying the plan is just madness.”
In another letter to Patel and British Foreign Secretary Dominique Rapp sent on June 1, Julia Lu Bu Said, CEO of Advantage Travel Partners, expressed concern that the government viewed quarantine opposition as merely a concern of luxury operators.
She refuted this, and cited the fear of small companies from leaving work, and demanded the end of quarantine plans. She also requested that changes be made to the British Foreign Office’s current travel advice, which warns of all but essential travel, and the creation of so-called air bridges.
A bridge too far?
The latter became a hot topic, prompting the idea that roads could be constructed to countries with low infection rates, bypassing the need for quarantine. 94% of British travel companies are said to prefer the plan.
The Portuguese foreign minister has already said that he would be pleased to welcome the UK tourist in late June under such plans, with Spain and Italy also keen to welcome Britons desperate to travel abroad this year, boosting vital tourism sectors in tackling.
“The government needs to talk about the word” quarantine “and talk about air bridges, testing and tracking, which are the right things to do from a health point of view but it is also the right thing to help the economy recover,” says Paul Charles. Reservations are damaged. Over the past three weeks it collapsed. The industry suffers from no sales in April, no sales in May, and now it is possible that nothing will happen in June. People are worried that they will get stuck on their return. “
In her statement to Parliament, Patel said that the option of air bridges is being actively explored and quarantine procedures will be reviewed after three weeks.
Sean Moriarty, CEO of Quinta de Lago Resort in the Portuguese Algarve region, said that establishing such corridors for freedom of movement would help, but it may not be enough.
“Even with air bridges, we know that travelers will be more careful about going on vacation,” he said. “However, we are already seeing a significant increase in reservations and inquiries regarding villa holidays spanning from Quinta do Lago from July to October, as guests will work from home and use backup rooms for offices or studies.”
Will UK travelers be welcomed?
CNN Atika Shubert talks about plans under way in Spain to ease foreign travel restrictions in an attempt to welcome tourists again, despite concerns about Covid-19.
The question also remains about whether destinations with unrestricted travel links to the UK will be happy to welcome their citizens as visitors. The country’s death rate from Covid-19 is the second highest in the world after the United States, with a death toll of nearly 40,000. Incidence rates remain at 1,500 new cases per day. Why do countries in Europe that have successfully suppressed the disease risk taking in UK visitors?
“There is no doubt that some of our clients are cautious about welcoming British visitors very quickly,” says Paul Charles. “The measured approach is important. As technology improves, numbers of cases decrease, and more confidence returns, many will realize that British visitors will travel from July. The key is to restore confidence.”
This confidence appears to exist, but quarantine means that companies cannot see a way to attract UK visitors.
“We’ve been in contact with our local hosts all over the world repeatedly throughout this epidemic to get their thoughts and insights into the situation in their communities,” says Sam Bruce, co-founder of Much Better Adventures, which collaborates with. Guides and hotels for outdoor adventures in countries including Morocco, Costa Rica and Romania. “They understand the principle behind [quarantine]But they are naturally concerned about the damage to businesses and their local economies. Most of them are still keen to return to speed as quickly as possible, and welcome adventurers from the UK.
“Many of our destinations with significantly lower injury rates are preparing to open their borders, with well-defined risk management plans including strong testing capacity on arrival, and yet will still be unable to attract UK clients again due to the quarantine they face to return to the Kingdom United. “
Robin Shepherd reflects Bruce’s view, saying he does not believe that overseas companies are concerned about British travel. “I don’t think they see us as a pariah or some kind of scourge on the world,” he says. However, he adds, he doesn’t think much of the UK will be launched this summer. He says: “Many Britons have resigned themselves not to spend an international holiday this year.”
Nevertheless, tourism boards are already offering incentives to try to urge the British to book now later in the summer, in an effort to rally business.
“Even if we can’t go everywhere immediately, many places are expressly keen to welcome us, and some places – for example Sicily – offer free discounts and offers to attract tourists again,” says Ant Clarke-Cowell, an affiliate brand. . Director at Holiday Extras. “Others, like Cyprus, offer to cover health care costs for any visitor who gets sick there.”
For Brian Young of G Adventures, the procedures being put in place in UK airports, including temperature checks, and the protection of airlines that ask passengers to wear face caps, should alleviate the concerns of suppliers he works with around the world.
“The necessary measures are taken to ensure the well-being of customers,” he says. Time to start opening up and moving things around.
Whether or not Young would fulfill his wish and whether British travelers would blast off to the skies later this summer, however, remains to be seen.