(CNN) – Across Europe, beaches are preparing for their first socially distant foreign visitors, hotels are ventilating rooms, and restaurants are setting tables with alfresco. With open borders, the tourism industry is trying to save as much of the tourist season as possible.
At the moment, almost everyone is invited, but despite the tempting prospect of the blue Mediterranean Sea and blue sky, one country is not coming – and people are very angry about it.
It seems that for the UK, summer holidays can still be canceled.
Although it appears to be emerging from one of the continent’s worst coronavirus epidemics, the country has decided to abruptly close its borders by imposing a 14-day quarantine that critics say will alleviate the last shreds of hope for its travel industry.
If the rules don’t change soon, millions of Britons hoping to ease their blues after closing by fleeing to warmer regions are likely to have to cancel their plans unless they want to endure forced isolation upon return or risk a £ 1,000 fine – – around $ 1,250.
And for the British tourism industry, any possibility of absorbing much-needed foreign tourist dollars is rapidly disappearing. Britain has many charms, but a two-week prison in the same room is not a reason why people visit this landscaped island.
If that wasn’t enough to alleviate the frustration, it seems far from being strictly enforced, the new regulations will be lightly police-imposed only after they take effect on June 8, with on-the-spot checks that may actually miss virus carriers that They are designed to keep sequered.
This contrasts with much stricter measures in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong, imposed much earlier during the pandemic.
There are claims that visitors or returnees will be able to take advantage of the “Dublin evasion” as arrivals from the Republic of Ireland will be exempt from quarantine. In theory, they could travel from anywhere and pass through a British neighbor.
‘Blunt economic tool’
Greece is opening its beaches and welcoming foreign visitors.
Byron Smith / Getty Images
And the rules have become too late for some, with questions being asked about why Britain’s borders remained wide open during the height of the virus epidemic and have only now restricted them as the country eases social constraints.
“There is no doubt that quarantine should have been introduced at the beginning of the pandemic, in early March, because then it would have been most effective,” said Paul Charles, founder and CEO of PC Agency, which represents travel communities including Ireland, New Zealand and Finland. 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 initially set up quarantine. That was WHO advice. But our government never did that. So can we, too” I don’t understand why they do it now that Covid-19 cases are failing and a testing and tracing system is already in place … they use a blunt economic tool to try to keep cases low. “
There are some exceptions to the quarantine rule. Truck drivers, health workers Covid-19 and elite athletes coming in late July for bio-safe football or cricket matches or the F1 British Grand Prix will be exempt.
Everyone else will need to fill out a form before arrival, with a fine of £ 100, providing the government with an address where they will set it aside in two weeks.
While those who violate conditions in the UK will be fined £ 1,000, only a fifth of passengers are expected on the spot. Metropolitan police covering London said there was no time to enforce the law.
Some conditions in quarantine further raised questions about its likely effectiveness. Arriving passengers will be able to go to their destination by public transport and leave their accommodation to buy basic things. In Hong Kong, arrivals get a prison-style bracelet and say they don’t leave their hotel room with a two-week government mandate.
‘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 being introduced in June precisely because other countries are opening up, and says it also means a higher risk of new coronavirus cases coming from abroad.
“Travelers from abroad could become a high proportion of the total number of infections in the UK, and thus increase the spread of the disease,” British 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 after the virus.
“If such an obstacle was needed, why wasn’t it introduced earlier in the epidemic?” he added. Conservative MP Steve Brine called it “the right move at the wrong time”.
It’s a look that resonated with George Morgan-Grenville, CEO of tour operator Red Savannah. “By following its quarantine plans without respecting the economic consequences, the government decides to ignore the devastation it will cause to companies, employment and the lives of all those whose jobs will be lost,” he says.
“I think it’s too late,” agrees Brian Young, CEO of G Adventures, which offers small group tours around the world. “The impact on this whole sector is undermining customer confidence. It takes time to get things started. If the quarantine lasts 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 her government’s measures against why quarantine was not introduced earlier to prevent tens of thousands of people from continuing to enter the country when they suddenly became infected with the Covid-19 virus.
“Some have suggested that public health measures should have been introduced when the virus was at its peak. However, there was scientific advice at the time that such measures would make little difference when domestic transmission spreads,” she told parliament.
The government’s argument for introducing quarantine has now met with disbelief from the wider tourism industry.
Approximately 300 companies, including luxury brands Black Tomato and Kuoni, as well as major players such as Travelbag and Netflight, backed a letter to Patel requesting quarantine before it was implemented, saying it would devastate a sector already feeling the epidemic.
A new survey of 124 business and travel catering business owners in the UK found that 60% expect staff to be redundant when the measures take effect. A total of 94% believe that summer reservations will disappear if quarantine is applied. 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 essential travel to the UK as long as quarantine measures exist.
People who come to the UK will be allowed to travel to their quarantine site by public transport.
TOLGA AKMEN / AFP via Getty Images
Mirjam Peternek-McCartney, CEO of travel communications company Lemongrass Marketing, put things in great condition. “Tour operators are suffering, carriers are suffering, hoteliers are suffering and cities in the UK that accept international tourists, such as London and Oxford, will see that many companies that rely entirely on tourism will fail,” she warns.
Robin Sheppard, founder and president of Bespoke Hotels Group, the UK’s largest independent hotel group, says he is plagued by time.
“If it had come around March 23, I would have understood it, but to introduce it now, inaccurately, seems very stupid,” he said. “I don’t agree with the original feelings, it’s just the wrong time. I didn’t listen to the public reaction to this and adjusting the plan is just crazy.”
In another letter to Patel and British Foreign Secretary Dominique Raab on June 1, Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO of The Advantage Travel Partnership, expressed concern that the government views opposition to quarantine as simply a concern for luxury operators,
Denying this and citing the fear of smaller companies not going out of business, she demanded an end to quarantine plans. She also called for changes to the UK’s current travel advice on travel, which warns of all but necessary travel and the establishment of so-called air bridges.
Bridge too far?
The latter have become a hot topic, pushing the idea that routes can be established for countries with a low infection rate, bypassing the need for quarantine. About 94% of UK travel companies are said to favor the plan.
The Portuguese foreign minister has already said he will be happy to receive UK tourists from the end of June as part of such plans, and Spain and Italy have also expressed a desire to welcome Britons desperately coming abroad this year, increasing their vital tourism sectors in the process.
“The government has to say the word‘ quarantine ’and talk about air bridges and testing and tracing, which are the right things from a health standpoint, but also the right ones that help the economy recover,” says Paul Charles, “The very talk of quarantine measures damages reservations. “Over the last three weeks, they have failed. The industry suffers without sales in April, sales in May, and now no sales in June. People are worried about getting stuck. On their return.”
In a statement to parliament, Patel said that the possibilities of air bridges were being actively explored and that quarantine measures would be reviewed after three weeks.
Sean Moriarty, executive director of the Quinta do Lago resort in Portugal’s Algarve region, said establishing such free movement corridors would help, but may not be enough.
“Even if there are air bridges, we are aware that passengers will understandably be more careful when going on holiday,” he said. “However, we are already witnessing a large increase in bookings and inquiries for extended holiday stays at villas in Quinta do Lago from July to October, where guests will work from home and use spare rooms for offices or studios.”
Will UK travelers be welcome?
CNN’s Attica Shubert reports on plans in Spain to ease travel restrictions abroad in an effort to welcome returnees, despite concerns about Covid-19.
The question remains whether destinations with unhindered travel to the UK will be happy to receive their citizens as visitors. The death rate from the country of Covid-19 is the second largest in the world after the United States, and the number of deaths is close to 40,000. The infection rate is still around 1,500 new cases a day. Why would countries in Europe that have managed to control the disease want to risk accepting visitors to the UK?
“There is no doubt that some of our clients are wary of welcoming British visitors as quickly as possible,” says Paul Charles. “A measured approach is important. As technology improves, the number of cases declines and more trust returns, many will realize that British visitors have been traveling since July. The key is to restore trust.”
Trust seems to exist, but quarantine means companies can’t find a way to complain to UK visitors.
“During this pandemic, we were often in contact with our local hosts around the world to get their thoughts and insights into the situation in their local communities,” says Sam Bruce, co-founder of Much Better Adventures, which teams up with guides and hotels that offer outdoor adventures in countries including Morocco, Costa Rica and Romania. “They understand the principle behind it [quarantine], but are naturally very concerned about damage to business and the local economy. Most remain eager for a speedy return and welcome adventurers 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 strong on-arrival testing capabilities, but will still not be able to attract UK customers due to return quarantine. to the UK. “
Robin Sheppard reflects Bruce’s opinion, saying he doesn’t believe companies abroad are worried about Brits traveling. “I don’t think they see us as a couple or some kind of fear of the world,” he says. However, he adds that he does not believe that many from the UK will fly away this summer. “An awful lot of Britons have already resigned that they don’t have an international holiday this year,” he says.
Despite this, tourist boards are already offering incentives to try to get Brits to book them for later in the summer, in an effort to boost business.
“Even if we can’t go everywhere right away, a multitude of places explicitly welcome us, and some places – like Sicily – offer discounts and free products to attract tourists,” says Ant Clarke-Cowell, a collaborative director’s brand at Holiday Extras. “Others, like Cyprus, offer to cover the healthcare costs of all visitors who get sick there.”
For Brian Youngh of G Adventures, measures applied at UK airports, including temperature checks and airline protection requiring passengers to wear protective liners, should allay concerns with suppliers he works with around the world.
“Necessary measures are being put in place to ensure customer well-being,” he says. “It’s time to start opening up and running things.”
Whether Young will get his wish and whether travelers from the UK will head to heaven this summer remains to be seen.