There are concerns among agents that this summer could see a repeat of last year’s last-minute changes to travel corridors, which resulted in Brits rushing to get home to avoid having to quarantine.
Despite the Global Travel Taskforce recommending more notice for countries moving between different colours on the traffic-light system, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps warned the Government would act fast if necessary.
At Friday’s Downing Street briefing, in which he announced a handful of countries had made it onto the UK’s green list, Mr Shapps said: “If we start to have any concerns, and, if it’s necessary because of a new upswing in cases or a new variant, we’ll not hesitate to act fast and withdraw green status.”
South Shields-based Westoe Travel Director Graeme Brett said: “The minister has shown an appalling lack of understanding of the travel industry and seems to be ignoring the recommendations of the Global Travel Taskforce, which I thought had recommended more notice for countries moving between different colours.”
He also expressed frustration that the Government still didn’t understand the way travel agents work.
“The trade bodies have let down the travel industry in not keeping banging on the minister’s door to get our message across.
“The trade bodies in other industries such as hospitality have been so much more succesful in representing their members.”
Off Broadway Travel Partner Tricia Conroy Smith, based in Welwyn, Herts, said: “We are quite concerned about this. If we see a repeat of last year, people will be put off from travelling.
“Yesterday we already had clients changing holiday dates from July to later in the year because they don’t want to move into an amber or red category.
“We also, as yet, don’t know whether the Government’s current guidance on essential travel-only for amber countries will change soon, and if not, how that affects travel insurance.”
She hopes the subject will be discussed if Mr Shapps takes up her offer of visiting the agency, which is in his constituency.
Gary Pridmore, CEO of Aquilium Travel, which owns The Travel Directors and The Travel Managers homeworking groups, said: “One would think the Government has learnt some lessons from last year’s sudden changes that caused chaos, but it will always be a concern.
“I feel for the tour operators in particular as many are being very flexible with their T&Cs, which must be impacting them greatly.
“I am optimistic that green areas are hopefully less likely to experience a sudden change in status without some prior warning before they move into amber or even red.
“It doesn’t help that our Secretary of State for Transport believes that travel agents do not exist anymore.”