More frustrated businesses have pledged their support to The Telegraph’s Unlock Long Haul campaign, which aims to open up the world to British travellers after lockdown.
Almost 80 companies have now given their backing to our call for the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to scrap its blanket advisory against all but essential travel and open up more quarantine-free “corridors” to safe long-haul destinations.
“To give the industry a fighting chance, and for clients to have the holidays they want, there needs to be a major shift in the FCDO advice,” said Liz Hall, managing director of safari specialist Africa Pride. “From our own perspective, many African countries have much lower Covid-19 infection rates than the UK, or even those countries where the air bridges were granted this summer, and many also have World Travel & Tourism Council Stamps of Approval for their Covid-19 Protocols. The blanket advice for Africa needs to be reviewed urgently with it lifted for some countries even if quarantine is needed on the clients’ return to the UK. Our clients want to travel.”
As things stand, only a few dozen travel corridor countries can be visited by Britons without a requirement to self-isolate on their return. This list contains no nations in Africa or Latin America, despite all of them having far lower Covid case rates than the UK. Britons may, after lockdown, still travel to these destinations, but the FCDO’s blanket warning against all but essential travel – with limited exemptions – means tour operators cannot offer trips.
Danny Callaghan, CEO of the Latin American Travel Association, which has more than 200 members, said: “There is an argument to say that if someone wants to go abroad, takes out adequate travel insurance (and there are excellent Covid-inclusive policies now available), and is prepared to quarantine in the UK on return, then why shouldn’t they?
“Following the launch of the Unlock Long Haul campaign, I was in touch with a good friend in the House of Commons who put the matter directly to Ministers within the FCDO. The answer that came back, with almost indecent haste, was a flat ‘no’.
“This does somewhat reinforce the view in the travel industry that senior people in Government just don’t ‘get’ the tourism sector, how it works, and the benefits.”
The benefits are numerous. In the UK, the winter travel market is invaluable to holiday businesses and supports millions of jobs across destination countries – many of which are developing nations. Tour operators are struggling to survive and have already been forced to make tens of thousands of redundancies, while the collapse of tourism has contributed to rising levels of poverty, poaching, and environmental damage in Africa and beyond.
“I understood the logic of [the FCDO advice] back in March but it is entirely inappropriate now,” said Ginny Russell, director of luxury safari firm Cedarberg Africa. “My company has been destroyed this year, not by Covid but by the blanket ban on travel.” She pointed out that the US State Department also implemented a blanket ban on travel in the spring, “but lifted this a couple of months ago”.
Much of the world, including most of Asia, still isn’t welcoming foreign tourists. But many winter-sun destinations are now open, even to Britons. Restrictions on entry vary. Some countries, such as Egypt and Chile, require evidence of a negative PCR test, but several countries, including Tanzania, Costa Rica, Brazil and Mexico, have no significant entry restrictions. However, despite all of these six countries (and there are many more) possessing a lower Covid infection rate than the UK, none are on the FCDO “safe” list.
Danny Callaghan added: “As an industry we are working hard towards a safe restart, but the lifting of FCDO restrictions due to Covid doesn’t mean that there will be a sudden rush of Brits going abroad – many countries around the world are still closed to tourists, airlines are not in a position to just restart flying long-haul routes, and so on. In a way, that’s what makes the FCDO travel ban redundant, because tourism is only available in places that are safe and have strong government support, plus travel companies just won’t send people on holidays to higher-risk places.
“What we want as an industry is the reassurance that, as and when we are happy to send customers to countries that are happy to receive them, we won’t then have to battle the FCDO to reverse the blanket ban, and that’s why we really want to see that rolled back as soon as possible, to give us confidence in our future.”
Unlock Long Haul
The Telegraph’s Unlock Long Haul campaign is calling for the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) blanket advisory against all but essential travel to be scrapped, and for travel corridors to be granted for more countries beyond Europe.
The UK winter is long. A second lockdown means it will feel even longer. Just as exercise and green space were championed as partial cures during the first lockdown, so a sun-blessed foreign holiday could be a boost to people’s mental wellbeing after another one.
The UK government has applauded the idea of a happiness-oriented society. Its own health experts tell us that vitamin D is beneficial to the immune system. We will keep applying pressure on the Government to take urgent action, and our campaign will give travel businesses and tourist boards a platform to support the lifting of restrictions to safe winter sun destinations.
If you represent a travel business or overseas tourist board and wish to lend your support to the campaign, please email [email protected].
The following travel bosses have already offered their support:
Edward Paine, Managing Director, Last Frontiers
Sarah Bradley, Managing Director, Journey Latin America
Oli Broom, Managing Director, The Slow Cyclist
Rupert Longsdon, CEO and Founder, Oxford Ski Company
George Morgan-Grenville, Founder & CEO, Red Savannah
James Jayasundera , Founder & Managing Director, Ampersand Travel
Robert Slater, Managing Director, Safari Consultants
Tim Milner, Director, Bamboo Travel
Sue Foster, Operation Director, Africa and Beyond Ltd
Simon Williams, Owner, Humboldt Travel
Henrietta Loyd, Founder + Director, cazenove+loyd
James Palmer-Tomkinson, Director, PT Ski Ltd
Fiona Charrington, Chief Executive, Martin Randall Travel
Alice Gully, Sales Director and co-owner, Aardvark Safaris
Matthew O’Sullivan, Director, Captivating Cuba Ltd
Abigail Shaw, Director, Bushbaby Travel
Chris McIntyre, Managing Director, Expert Africa
Justin Wateridge, Managing Director, Steppes Travel
Sara White, Director, Real World Travel & Conservation
Simon Cameron, Founder & CEO, Lightfoot Travel
Marc Leaderman, Product & Operations Director, Wild Frontiers
Will Jones, Managing Director, Journeys by Design
Jonny Bealby, CEO/Founder, Wild Frontiers
Neil Sealy, Head of Trade Sales, Exsus Travel
Mark Kempster, CEO, CT Travel Group Ltd
Farzana Dobbs, Managing Director, Travel Gallery
Peter Sommer, Director, Peter Sommer Travels
Sam Clark, Managing Director, Experience Travel Group
Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell, Owner/Director, cazenove+loyd
Sara Zimmerman, CEO, Travel Department
Laurenne Mansbridge, Director, Pioneer Expeditions Worldwide Ltd
Will Bolsover, Founder/CEO, Natural World Safaris Ltd
Henry Cookson, Founder/ CEO, Cookson Adventures Ltd
David Horwell, Director, Select Latin America
Liddy Pleasants, Managing Director, Stubborn Mule Travel
Nick Van Gruisen, Managing Director, The Ultimate Travel Company
Guy Marks, Director, Tribes Travel Ltd
Frank Kenyon-Slaney, Director, World Odyssey
Daniel Benians, Managing Director, Distinctive World Travel
Marc Harris, Managing Director, Odyssey Travels
Jeremy Snelling, Co-founder, Revealed Travel
Brett Gerrett, General Manager, Isleworth Travel Management
Amrit Singh, Managing Director, Transindus Ltd
Mike McHugo, Managing Director/Founder, Discover Ltd
Steve Wilson, Founder, LiNGER
Claire Farley, Founder & Director, 2by2 Holidays
Noel Josephides, Chairman, Sunvil
Chris Wright, Managing Director, GIC The Villa Collection
Fiona Brijnath, Director, Far Frontiers Travel/Arcturus
Jim O’Brien, Director, Native Eye
Alex Edwards, Director, Natural High Safaris
David Warne, Product and Commercial Director, Wexas Travel
Gemma Antrobus, Chair, AITO Specialist Travel Agents
Anki Nordin, General Manager, Dragoman Overseas Travel
Andrew Hunt, Owner, Holiday Architects
David Holland, Director, Knighton Reeve
Carmel Hendry, Product Manager, Explore Worldwide
Martyn Summers, Executive Director, AITO, The Specialist Travel Association
Ariane Mike de Vizcaino, Product Executive, Cox & Kings Travel
Ben Morison, Managing Director, Far & Wild Travel
Liz Pepperell-Skey, Director, New Zealand in Style
Damian Croft, Operations Manager, Esplora Travel
Virginia Russell, Managing Director, Cedarberg Africa
Rob Fielding, General Manager, Discover Adventure Ltd
Robert Ferguson, Managing Director, Real World Travel & Conservation Ltd
Roland Hunter, Managing Director, The Mountain Company
Maggi Smit, Managing Director, Windows on the Wild
Marc Harris, Director, Tanzania Odyssey
Ginny Russell, Director, Cedarberg Africa
Andy Tucker, General Manager, NatureTrek
Luke Atkinson, Director, Rare Air Travel
Lynsey Devon, Heaven Publicity Ltd (representing Jackson Hole)
Liz Hall, Managing Director, African Pride
Karl Thompson, Managing Director, Unique Caribbean Holidays Ltd
Chris Wrede, Director, Oasis Overland
Jayne Alexander, Managing Director, The Dovetail Agency
Danny Callaghan, CEO, Latin American Travel Association
Nicola Gummer, Director, Naturally Travels