According to experts, a sharp decline in air travel between the UK and US will cost the British economy £11 billion this year. Covid testing could be the solution. Sam Ballard reports
A number of major tourism and industry groups are calling for governments on both sides of the Atlantic to introduce a travel corridor between the US and the UK, with a thorough Covid testing regime in place for travellers.
British American Business, a trade organisation that includes the major transatlantic airlines, is actively campaigning for an air corridor to be established.
At the moment, the US has essentially banned anyone travelling from the UK from entry, while the UK has imposed a two-week quarantine on US citizens entering the UK.
In an opinion piece on its website, Duncan Edwards, the chief executive of British American Business and Emanuel Adam, director of policy and trade, British American Business, wrote: “In the Interest of our economies, we must now co-ordinate efforts and action with the ambition to reopen the transatlantic corridor.
“We already know that the best solution to achieve this is by having an aviation testing regime in place. Covid-19 testing before departure or at airports will be an effective risk mitigation measure for destinations considered to be at higher risk. It will build up vital confidence and trust with the public and businesses to travel again.”
The campaign for a UK-US travel corridor is being backed by the Advantage Travel Partnership – a consortia of independent travel agents; WIN Global Travel Network, Advantage’s business travel body; and The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA).
The group is calling for compulsory Covid testing for travellers 48 hours before departure, so they can bypass quarantine and urgently restore business travel across the Atlantic.
Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO of the Advantage Travel Partnership and Dave Hilfman, executive director of the GBTA said: “We fully support the Covid-19 ‘double testing’ method that has been piloted at airports in the UK and Europe, followed by a second test within days of arriving in destination.
“We believe this will be a vital step to revive transatlantic business travel which has been devastated over the past six months. It has been clear there is a lack of understanding on how the travel industry works, particularly the business travel sector and its value in contributing to UK jobs and the economy.
“Of course, public safety is paramount and should weigh heavily in discussions of restarting travel, but the draconian quarantine measures put in place will deter any business traveller, whereas the cost of a test before departure and another one arrival is a much more reasonable and practical option.
“Contact-tracing applications can effectively help fight the pandemic but can only do so if they are subject to a common set of standards to enable rapid exchange of information and limit the risks of further outbreaks.
“Unless we urgently start to improve transatlantic trading conditions the fall out for the rest of the year and 2021 could be catastrophic for economies both sides of the pond.”
According to The Telegraph, more than 20 million passengers fly between the UK and US annually with trade between the US and UK worth more than £200 billion a year. The US is the UK’s top investor, representing 27 per cent of all inward direct foreign investment.