The damage has been done for traveller confidence

On Friday, 8 January, the UK Government announced that a negative test 72 hours prior to arrival was required for entry into England, a much-anticipated move by travellers and health officials. This is a delayed response by the government and was required many months ago to curb the spread. Many other countries have had these measures in place since travel restarted after the first major wave of Covid-19 such as Spain that announced this requirement in November 2020.

As many countries banned flights to and from the UK in December, following a new, more transmissible variant of the coronavirus, confidence in travelling to the UK will be at an all-time low. Regardless of the fact, there is a national lockdown with ‘stay at home’ measures in place. Safety concerns are high and willingness to travel to England will be limited for the foreseeable future.

There are flaws in the system

In many countries, the provision of a negative test reduces or eliminates a potential quarantine period. However, in England, quarantine remains for all passengers arriving from a country not on the ‘travel corridor’ list. Quarantine measures can be costly, inconvenient and significantly lengthen any trip. It still remains that business travellers are exempt from any quarantine measures.

As the Covid-19 situation is hoped to be improved after recent lockdown measures, a mandatory quarantine with a negative test will cause problems for inbound visitors. According to GlobalData, in 2020, the average length of an international trip was 8.8 days, which is less than the quarantine period itself. Arrivals to the UK would be unwilling to quarantine for a longer period than their trip as this will come with high costs and can cause problems with annual leave. Travellers may seek to visit destinations that require a negative test and no quarantine instead.

If these new measures are long term, this could also have a negative impact on outbound visitation from the UK. By having to quarantine on return from a trip is inconvenient for many workers who are unable to work at home. Even though the quarantine period has been reduced from 14 days to 10, this is still long enough to discourage outbound trips.

So far, the rules only apply to England, however, there are calls for similar measures to be implemented in Scotland and Wales. In this initial period, it then leaves opportunity for some travellers to arrive into Scotland or Wales and travel across the border to gain entry into England without providing a negative test.

Consistency is key

If these measures are to be a long-term requirement, they must match other countries methods. Confusion amongst which negative tests are accepted will further deter any visitation into the UK. The UK is heavily reliant on inbound tourism spending from multiple countries. Visit Britain recorded an 80% drop in inbound visitation spending to the UK, compared to pre-Covid-19 2020 forecasts, illustrating the financial impact that has already been caused. Alongside changes in tourism due to Brexit, travelling to and from the UK in 2021 may be much harder than it was in 2019 or even 2020.

It is evident that these new measures are purely aimed at stopping the spread of the virus, rather than benefiting tourism. While they are required in this respect, if they continue it could further deter visitation to the UK, which will result in a further loss for the tourism sector.

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