Trade bodies have welcomed Scotland’s decision to ease testing for fully vaccinated travellers, but the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA) says the announcement has come too late for October half-term holidays.
Scotland announced today that it will align with the UK Government’s approach to testing, so pre-departure in-destination tests will be abolished for fully vaccinated travellers from 4 October and, later in October, travellers will be able to opt for a lateral flow day 2 test instead of a more expensive PCR.
SPAA President Joanne Dooey said: “The removal of the pre departure in-destination test and the change to an initial lateral flow test on arrival back in Scotland is hugely welcome, but the delays which Scottish travellers experience with the confirmation of these changes does nothing to instil confidence to travel to and from Scotland.
“There’s unlikely to be a rush to the travel agents this weekend to book for October breaks during the school holidays, as the timing means that most families will be unable to organise the time off work now to go on a family break.
“Those who did want to travel have already booked flights departing from English airports.
“Travel agents have also recently experienced clients who are already booked on a holiday departing from Scotland, requesting that their return flight is changed to a flight returning to England. So, the impact won’t be immediate but these changes to bring us into line with England could be the start of recovery for the beleaguered travel sector.”
ABTA Chief Executive Mark Tanzer called on the Welsh Government to also ease testing for vaccinated holidaymakers.
“Testing requirements have been a huge barrier to foreign travel for many people, stalling the travel industry’s recovery, so it is really welcome news that Scotland plans to relax testing requirements, in line with those in England, from October,” he said.
“A consistent approach across all four nations is crucial to ensure consumers understand the rules and feel confident to travel again, which will enable the travel industry to get back on its feet, and we made this clear in a letter to the devolved administrations this week.
“While it is encouraging the Northern Ireland Executive will also drop pre-departure tests, we urge them to go further and remove the requirement for day two PCR tests as well and want the Welsh Government to take the same approach.”
Scotland Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport Michael Matheson said: “We have concerns that the UK Government’s proposals to remove the requirement for a pre-departure test for some travellers could weaken our ability to protect the public health of Scotland’s communities.
“However, we also recognise that not having UK wide alignment causes significant practical problems and creates disadvantages for Scottish businesses. Also, if non alignment led to travellers to Scotland choosing to route through airports elsewhere in the UK, the public health benefits of testing would be undermined in any event.
“We have urgently considered all these implications, weighing any possible impact on the public health and the logistical realities. After liaising at length with stakeholders from the aviation sector to understand the impact of adopting a different approach in Scotland, we have reluctantly concluded that, for practical reasons, alignment with the UK is the best option.
“The new proposals make clear pre-departure tests will no longer be a requirement. We also intend to align with the UK post-arrival testing regime. The detail of that is still being developed with lateral flow tests being considered and we will engage further with the UK Government on those plans. Details will be announced at the same time as the UK.
“Lastly, the importance of guarding against new variants entering the country can’t be ignored. We will therefore be considering, with Public Health Scotland, the implementation of additional public health surveillance around international travel. We would intend this to be at no cost to travellers.”