Industry WAS right to argue against traffic light system says Advantage boss

By Lisa James
Home » Industry WAS right to argue against traffic light system says Advantage boss

The damning report into the failed £500 million traffic light system proves the industry was right to argue the measures were not worth the disruption caused, the boss of Advantage Travel Partnership has said.

Advantage CEO Julia Lo Bue-Said also said it underlines the need for the travel sector to demonstrate its value to the whole of the UK.

Julia was responding to yesterday’s publication of the report by the Public Accounts Committee which said the Government spent at least £486 million on the traffic light scheme, but ‘does not know whether the system worked or whether the cost was worth the disruption caused’.

The PAC report said rules were changed at least 10 times between February 2021 and January 2022, the industry was given ‘little time to adapt’ and received no specific additional support to implement checks on additional health documentation.

And, not only was the mandatory hotel quarantine system subsidised to the tune of £329 million by the taxpayer, but only 2% of people who had to quarantine in hotels on arrival from red-listed countries tested positive.

In total, the hotel quarantine scheme cost £757 million, though it was meant to be self-funding with the rest passed to people travelling.

This was despite the cost to individuals increasing to more than £2,200 for a single adult over 10 days in August 2021.

Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “The approach to border controls and quarantine caused huge confusion and disruption with 10 changes in a year. And now we can see that it is not clear what this achieved.

“We can be clear on one thing – the cost to the taxpayer in subsidising expensive quarantine hotels, and more millions of taxpayers’ money blown on measures with no apparent plan or reasoning and precious few checks or proof that it was working to protect public health.”

Julia said: “For my members – and for travel agents across the country – it has long been clear that these draconian measures were not worth the disruption caused, nor were they worth the irreversible damage wreaked upon the livelihoods of travel agents.”

Last week, new research from Advantage’s Business Impact Survey revealed 60% of members have an outstanding Government loan and 90% say their operating costs have gone up by as much as 50% in the past six months.

“In total, 92% of respondents think that the outbound travel sector needs greater support from across the political spectrum and I couldn’t agree more.

“Throughout the pandemic, we tirelessly lobbied the UK Government for further industry support given the two-year unnecessary travel turmoil, and that need has not gone away with the end of the restrictions.

“The effects are still being felt by thousands of small businesses across the UK and will continue to be felt for many more years to come.

“That is why it’s our mission to keep on raising the profile for our industry and demonstrating the significant economic and social value of the entire travel ecosystem including travel agents, not only to their local communities but also to the whole of the UK.”

Read the report summary, or download the full report, here

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