While much of the recent discussion on travels traffic light system focuses on the detail, the government has at least stuck to the roadmap it has set out, without having to fall back on the “no earlier than” caveat attached to each step.
It would have been nice to have more green light destinations announced, with less restrictions on testing too. However, there is a genuine intention to restart international travel on 17th May and moving forward with caution, has to be the right thing to do. It is also critical that we build slowly and sustainably, allowing confidence to grow for everyone to want to travel again, especially after the shambles of last year’s air corridors. I can still see flaws in this new scheme, but I suspect most of these will resolve themselves in the coming weeks and months ahead.
My biggest concern is that of the Amber list. When at any road intersection or pedestrian crossing, the amber traffic signal gives you a warning but really serves very little purpose. It doesn’t have the clarity of a green or red instruction and just builds up anticipation in the travel sector for something to happen. Inevitably it just prolongs the anticipation for a switch to green (or red) at some unspecified point in the future.
In theory, it all seems straight forward enough: amber means 10 days self-isolation, or five days with “test to release”. Some people may decide to travel under these conditions, viewing five days at home a small price to pay to get the trip they want. However, the feedback I am getting is one of a continued reluctance to self-isolate, for very valid reasons like school and work commitments. I also question if it is right for people to have to prepare themselves and wait in the hope that a desired destination (perhaps already booked) turns green before the planned departure date? Conversely, do they wait until it turns red before giving up on the trip altogether? With self-isolation at home falling outside the holiday contract, there is also no automatic right to a refund unless the holiday can no longer be offered due to closed borders, cancelled flights or FCDO advice. So, despite the flexibility that we and other operators/agents/airlines offer, is this system sufficient to keep clients happy as their holiday plans change? Clarity and transparency are what we all want, but just to add more confusion, the gov.uk website states “you should not travel to amber list countries or territories for leisure purposes”. This statement wasn’t covered in the Global Travel Taskforce report, it has sneaked its way in and was certainly not mentioned during Grant Shapps’ speech on May 7th either.
The green list is a very tiny step forward with most of the world now allocated as amber and how ever hard we try as an industry, we are still unable to offer definitive and clear advice. So, just like the traffic lights out on the street, amber is certainly proving to be the most ambiguous and frustrating colour for us all!