‘Going on holiday is the difference between living and existing’
These are desperate times for the travel industry, a sector that supports 2.5 millions livelihoods in the UK, and countless more abroad. Having endured a miserable year, hopes were high that 2021, helped by the rollout of the vaccine, would see a return to something approaching normality. Instead, thanks to strict new testing rules, the scrapping of the travel corridors list, and the introduction of quarantine hotels for arrivals from 33 “red list” countries, Britons have never been more fenced in. “We were promised that this vaccine would be the route back to normal,” says Alice Gully, founder of Aardvark Safaris, which, in an ordinary year, sends travellers to more than a dozen African destinations. “They said that once the vulnerable were protected we could open everything up, but now it feels like they are just penalising us even more. At least last year people could get away – to Europe, and some people even managed trips to Africa – but now there’s nothing.” Gully’s frustrations are understandable – she has battled for a year to keep her company afloat, leaking cash while convincing an impressive 96 per cent of her customers to postpone their trips, rather than cancel – and many in the travel industry share them. Indeed, this week has seen more than 500 companies sign up to the new Save Our Summer campaign, urging the Government to lift travel restrictions by the end of May, and telling the public to ignore ministers and book their breaks now. “Travel has been completely demonised,” she says. “To go on holiday to most places now you have to be tested four times – once before you depart, once to return, and then twice more when you’re back in the UK – and now they are making people quarantine in a hotel room for 10 days – even if every test is negative. Even if you’ve been vaccinated! It’s crazy.” The shackles might be eased in the coming months, of course, but Gully isn’t particularly optimistic, especially when it comes to long-haul travel. “Who knows? Certainly there won’t be any holidays before April, and I’m hesitant to make predictions about the summer. I’m just hoping that the Government finds sufficient evidence that the vaccine offers protection against these variants they are so scared of, or that travel corridors will start to open up again. Places leading the way on vaccinations, like the Seychelles, might be among the first options.” The Seychelles recently said it would welcome all travellers who have had both doses of an approved vaccine, and that once its own population has been vaccinated – which may only take a couple of months – anyone can visit. Gully thinks the policy, which is likely to be copied by other countries, is “logical”, and urged the UK to produce vaccine certificates so inoculated Britons can take advantage.