The World Travel and Tourism Council has described the UK government’s traffic light system for travel as “hugely damaging”, and is calling for it to be abandoned. Jenny Southan reports

The UK traffic light system for international travel could be coming to an end, as the travel industry ramps up criticism and rising numbers of politicians lose faith in it. (Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was pushing it as a solution from the beginning but now he is facing a backlash from Tory backbenchers.)

Noel Josephides, director of AITO, told The Telegraph: “Hoteliers are turning away bookings from the UK in August because they don’t trust us – and European travellers are taking our beds and availability.”

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has been one of the most vocal, calling for it to be scrapped immediately if there is any hope of saving hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the UK.

The global tourism body also points out that the UK is “squandering its competitive advantage” generated by the successful vaccine rollout (more than 70 per cent of the population has been double jabbed).

After France was recently placed on a new “amber plus” list (the only country in the world to be on it), it is now expected to return to “amber” status tomorrow. Meanwhile, a proposed “amber watchlist” (which would be a sixth tier within the traffic light system) is said to be off the table, which is good news.

However, the traffic light system is ultimately, arguably, unnecessary. As editor and founder of Globetrender, I would say: “We need to trust in the vaccine to protect against serious illness, and the ability of a straight-forward test and quarantine system that is one size fits all. Either you have been double jabbed and you can travel freely – or you submit to testing and a short quarantine if you haven’t been.

“If we didn’t have the vaccine, we’d need to traffic light system but it’s now becoming a political tool rather than something for our own protection.”

I wrote an article for Business Traveller in February about the problematic red list airport hotel quarantine system, which has subsequently been associated with stories of sexual harrassment from guards, rat infested rooms, terrible food and inhumane prison-style conditions. Globetrender thinks now is the time to remove this infrastructure.

The WTTC says that the move to a “more transparent and easier to understand approach” would restore consumer confidence and provide a much-needed boost to the economy.

Virginia Messina, World Travel and Tourism Council senior vice-president and acting CEO, says: “It’s time the government abandoned the hugely damaging traffic lights system.

“Consumers, airlines and the wider travel sector were promised a watchlist and three weeks’ notice of any changes from green to amber, and not just four days. It has been incredibly disruptive and costly for both travel and tourism businesses and consumers. It simply hasn’t worked.

“What’s needed now is a watertight government policy enabling those who’ve been fully jabbed to travel freely, and not have to self-isolate on their return.

“Those who are not fully vaccinated should be able to travel with proof of a negative test, like what we are seeing in the EU. The travel sector needs this now if it is to survive this summer as domestic travel alone will not save the day.”

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