Travel industry bosses have cautiously welcomed the expansion of the green list – but warned it “fails to go far enough”.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that a number of destinations are being added to the green list for travel – from which returning travellers are not required to self-isolate – from Wednesday.
These include Malta and Spain’s Balearic islands as well as a number of Caribbean destinations such as Bermuda, Antigua, Barbados and Grenada.
But while leaders in the travel and tourism sector welcomed the move, they warned that it was insufficient to help the industry recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Airport Operators Association chief executive Karen Dee said: “Any extension of the green list is welcome, however small, but we also have to be realistic: this is not yet the meaningful restart the aviation industry needs to be able to recover from the pandemic.”
Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, added: “It’s a constructive step that the Government has recognised that Antigua, Barbados and Grenada can be classified as ‘green’ allowing family and friends to finally reunite and enable much needed holidays.
“However today’s announcement fails to go far enough.”
Mr Shapps also said it was the Government’s intention that “later in the summer” UK residents who are fully vaccinated will not have to isolate when travelling from amber list countries.
Ms Dee said this was a welcome step and urged the Government to publish details of its plans as soon as possible to “save what remains of the summer season”.
She added: “While this is not yet the vaccine dividend people in the UK had hoped for, it is welcome that Government intends to exempt fully vaccinated travellers from quarantine.
“In the meantime, the overly cautious approach continues to have major financial impacts for airports.”
He added: “The UK has already fallen behind the EU’s reopening and a continued overly cautious approach will further impact economic recovery and the 500,000 UK jobs that are at stake.”
The British Airline Pilots’ Association’s (Balpa) acting general secretary, Brian Strutton, and Ms Dee called for the aviation sector to be given more financial support by the Government.
Mr Strutton said: “With some countries looking to shut us out, it is now imperative that the bespoke financial support the Chancellor promised last year is delivered immediately.”
Ms Dee added: “Unless more support is put in place, many jobs in aviation and travel will continue to be at risk.”
The union Unite said that the Government as a “minimum” needed to extend the furlough scheme until spring next year to protect aviation jobs.
“The traffic light system is simply not fit for purpose; it is impossible for a multibillion-pound industry to make plans for the future when the rug can be pulled from under them every three weeks.”
The Department for Transport said that all additions to the green list apart from Malta will also join the “green watchlist”, as will Israel and Jerusalem – signalling that these places are at risk of moving from green to amber.
Rory Boland, Which? travel editor, said that travellers needed to be “extremely cautious” about booking trips this summer, even to green-list destinations.
He added: “Countries can be downgraded quickly and with little warning, as we saw with Portugal, while several European countries have introduced quarantine requirements for UK residents.
“Restrictions around international travel are changing regularly and when they do, the cost to holidaymakers is significant.”
But Thomas Cook CEO Alan French said he expected to see a “bumper weekend” of bookings following the announcement.
He added: “Today’s announcement is fantastic news for our customers who are desperate for a holiday and have been waiting with bated breath for this latest update.
“We expect to see a bumper weekend of bookings as people rush to head back to their favourite islands and claim their rightful spot by the pool or on the sun-soaked beaches of Majorca, Ibiza, Menorca, Madeira and Malta.”