(CNN) – Across Europe, beaches are preparing for their first socially distant foreign visitors, hotels are radiating rooms and restaurants are setting alfresco tables. Once the borders are open, the tourism industry is trying to save as much of the peak tourist season as possible.
At the moment, almost everyone is invited, but despite the tempting prospect of blue Mediterranean seas and blue skies, a country is not coming – and people are very angry about it.
For Britain, it seems, summer vacations could still be canceled.
Even though it appears to be emerging from one of the continent’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, the country has decided to abruptly close its borders by imposing a 14-day quarantine that critics say will tarnish the last bit of hope for the tourism industry.
If the rules don’t change soon, millions of Britons who hoped to relieve their blues after closing in on warmer air conditioners are likely to have to cancel their plans unless they want to endure forced isolation on their return or take risks a fine of £ 1,000 – – about $ 1,250.
And for the UK tourism industry, any prospect of absorbing some much-needed foreign travel dollars is rapidly disappearing. Britain has a lot of sex appeal, but two weeks in prison in the same room is not a reason for people to visit this artificial island.
If this was not enough to stop the frustrations, it seems far from strictly enforced, the new provisions will be subject to a light check only after they enter into force on 8 June, with on-the-spot checks that may actually be missed by viruses that are designed to maintain sequestration.
This contrasts with much tougher measures in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong imposed much earlier in the pandemic.
There are allegations that visitors or returnees may be able to benefit from “Dublin Avoidance” as those arriving from the Republic of Ireland will be released from quarantine. In theory, they could travel from anywhere and transit through the UK’s close neighbor.
“Dumb economic instrument”
Greece opens its beaches and welcomes foreign visitors.
Byron Smith / Getty Image
And the rules have arrived too late for some, with questions asked as to why Britain’s borders remain wide open during the height of the virus and are only now being restricted as the country eases social restrictions.
“There is no doubt that quarantine should have been imposed at the beginning of the pandemic, in early March, because that was when it would be most effective,” said Paul Charles, founder and CEO of the PC Agency, which represents tour boards, including Ireland, New Zealand and Finland in the UK, as well as major brands and operators.
“If you look at countries that have successfully overcome the coronavirus, like New Zealand and Vietnam, they have something in common. They put quarantine in place in the beginning. It was WHO advice. But our government never did it. So we can’t.” I understand why they do it now that Covid-19 cases are falling apart, and also when a testing and tracking system already exists … they use a dumb economic tool to try to keep cases low. “
There are some exceptions to the quarantine rules. Truck drivers, Covid-19 health workers and elite athletes coming to football or cricket matches or the British F1 giants at the end of July will be released.
Everyone else will be required to fill out a form before arriving, paying a £ 100 fine, giving the government an address for where they plan to be isolated for two weeks.
While fines of £ 1,000 will be imposed on those who violate UK conditions, only a fifth of travelers are expected to receive on-the-spot checks. The metropolitan police, which covers London, said there was no time to impose it.
Some quarantine conditions further fuel questions about its likely effectiveness. Arriving passengers will be able to travel to their destination by public transport and leave their accommodation to buy basic necessities. In Hong Kong, visitors receive a prison-style wrist and are told not to leave their government-certified hotel room for two weeks.
“Right move, wrong time”
Restaurants are reopening in France, where border restrictions for other EU countries have been lifted.
BERTRAND GUAY / AFP via Getty Images
So why now? The UK government says quarantine is introduced in June precisely because other countries are opening up, and that says it means a higher risk of new coronavirus cases coming from abroad.
“Travelers from abroad could account for a high proportion of the total number of infections in Britain and therefore increase the spread of the disease,” UK Home Secretary Priti Patel told parliament on Wednesday.
Her announcement drew condemnation from both members of her ruling Conservative Party and the main opposition Labor Party. Lawmaker Liam Fox, a former Conservative trade minister, described it as “unnecessary economic isolation” that would stifle recovery from the virus.
“If such a barrier is needed, why wasn’t it introduced earlier in the outbreak?” He added. Conservative MP Steve Breen called it “the right move at the wrong time”.
This is a sight voiced by George Morgan-Grenville, CEO of tour operator Red Savannah. “Following its quarantine plans, without considering the economic consequences, the government chooses to ignore the devastation it will cause to companies, employment and the lives of all those whose jobs will be lost,” he said.
“I think it’s too late,” agrees Brian Young, managing director of G Adventures, which offers small group tours around the world. “The impact on this whole sector shatters customer confidence. It takes time to develop. If the quarantine continues after the end of June, the summer season will be completely lost. Places like Greece are very dependent on tourism and can’t afford to lose all summer. “
Patel defended his government’s measures against why quarantine had not been introduced earlier to prevent the tens of thousands of people who continued to enter the country as Covid-19 infections grew.
“Some suggest that public health measures should be introduced when the virus was at its peak. However, at the time, the scientific councils were adamant that such measures would make little difference when domestic broadcasting was widespread, “she told parliament.
The government’s argument for quarantine has now been met with distrust by the wider tourism industry.
About 300 companies, including luxury brands Black Tomato and Kuoni, as well as key players such as Travelbag and Netflights, have approved a letter sent to Patel asking for quarantine to be scrapped before implementation, saying it would devastate a sector that is already is tested by the outbreak.
A new survey of 124 owners and CEOs of travel and hotel companies in the UK found that 60% expect to cut staff when the measures take effect. A total of 94% believe that summer reservations will disappear if quarantine is imposed. Meanwhile, 99% believe that politics will harm the economy. Tourism accounts for around four million jobs in the UK, 11% of the total workforce.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said his country would consult against a trivial trip to the UK as long as quarantine measures exist.
People arriving in the UK will be able to travel to their quarantined place by public transport.
TOLGA AKMEN / AFP via Getty Images
Mirjam Peternek-McCartney, CEO of travel communications company Lemongrass Marketing, puts things in great shape. “Tour operators are suffering, carriers are suffering, hoteliers are suffering, and cities in the UK that welcome international tourists, such as London and Oxford, will see many companies that rely entirely on tourism fall apart,” she warned.
Robin Sheppard, founder and chairman of Bespoke Hotels Group, the UK’s largest independent hotel group, says he is confused by the weather.
“If he had come around March 23, I would have understood him, but to present him now, so inaccurately, seems very stupid,” he said. “I don’t agree with the initial mood, it’s just the wrong moment. Not listening to the public’s reaction to this and adjusting the plan is just crazy.”
In another letter to Patel and UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab sent on June 1, Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO of The Advantage Travel Partnership, expressed concern that the government saw opposition to quarantine as a mere concern for luxury operators. ,,
Denying this and citing the fear of smaller companies of closing down their business, she demanded the termination of quarantine plans. She also called for changes to the current UK travel advice of the United Kingdom, which warn everyone except basic travel and the establishment of so-called air bridges.
Bridge too far?
The latter have become a hot topic, pushing the idea that routes to low-infection countries can be established, bypassing the need for quarantine. It is said that 94% of travel companies in the UK support the plan.
Portugal’s foreign minister has already said he would be happy to welcome UK tourists from the end of June with similar plans, with Spain and Italy also saying they want to welcome Britons who are desperate to go abroad this year. its vital tourism sectors in the process.
“The government needs to say the word ‘quarantine’ and talk about air bridges and test and follow-up, which are the right things to do from a health point of view, but also the right ones to help the economy recover,” says Paul Charles, “The very talk of quarantine measures is hurting reservations. They’ve collapsed in the last three weeks. The industry is suffering from no sales in April, no sales in May, and now there will be no prospect in June. People are worried about not staying. upon their return. “
In a statement to parliament, Patel said the possibility of air bridges was being actively explored and quarantine measures would be reviewed in three weeks.
Sean Moriarty, executive director of the Quinta do Lago resort in Portugal’s Algarve region, said creating such free movement corridors would help, but may not be enough.
“Even if there are air bridges, we are aware that travelers will understandably be more careful to go on holiday,” he said. “However, we are already witnessing a huge increase in bookings and inquiries for extended holiday holidays in Quinta do Lago from July to October, where guests will work from home and use spare rooms for offices or offices.”
Will travelers be welcome in the UK?
CNN’s Attica Schubert reports on plans in Spain to ease restrictions on travel abroad in an attempt to welcome tourists, despite concerns about Covid-19.
The question remains whether destinations with unlimited connections to travel to the United Kingdom will be happy to welcome their citizens as visitors. The country’s mortality rate from Covid-19 is the second highest in the world after the United States, with a death rate of nearly 40,000. The infection rate remains at about 1,500 new cases per day. Why would countries in Europe that have managed to suppress the disease want to risk accepting visitors to the UK?
“There is no doubt that some of our customers are wary of welcoming British visitors too quickly,” says Paul Charles. “A measured approach is important. As technology improves, the number of cases decreases and more trust returns, many will realize that British visitors will be traveling from July. The key is to restore trust.”
This confidence seems to exist, but quarantine means that businesses cannot see a way to please visitors to the UK.
“We’ve been in touch with our local hosts around the world often during this pandemic to get their thoughts and insights into the situation in their local communities,” said Sam Bruce, co-founder of Much Better Adventures, who is teaming up with leaders. and hotels offering outdoor adventures in countries including Morocco, Costa Rica and Romania. “They understand the principle behind it [quarantine]but are naturally very concerned about the damage to businesses and their local economies. Most remain willing to return to speed as quickly as possible and welcome adventurers back from the UK.
“Many of our destinations with a much lower infection rate are preparing to open their borders, with well-defined risk management plans, including a strong testing capacity on arrival, but will still not be able to attract customers from the UK. due to the quarantine they face. return to the UK. “
Robin Shepard quotes Bruce as saying she doesn’t believe companies abroad are worried about the British trip. “I don’t think they see us as a pariah or some kind of malice in the world,” he said. However, he added that he did not believe that many in the UK would reject this summer. “An awful lot of Britons have already come to terms with not having an international holiday this year,” he said.
However, travel councils are already offering incentives to try to get Brits to book now for later in the summer, in an attempt to increase business.
“Even if we can’t go everywhere right away, many places explicitly want to welcome us back, and some places – such as Sicily – offer discounts and free attraction,” said Ant Clark-Cowell, an associate brand director at Holiday Extras. “Others, such as Cyprus, offer to cover the healthcare costs of all visitors who fall ill there.”
For Brian Young of G Adventures, measures applied at UK airports, including temperature checks and protection from airlines that require passengers to wear face covers, should be a concern for suppliers working with them around the world.
“The necessary measures are in place to ensure customer well-being,” he said. “It’s time to start opening up and moving things.”
Whether Young gets his wish and whether travelers to Britain will take to the skies later this summer remains to be seen.