Rapid testing on departure at airports is the key to unlocking international travel, says the World Travel & Tourism Council in its submission to the UK government’s Global Travel Taskforce.
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), which represents the global Travel & Tourism private sector, has been at the forefront of global efforts to revive safe travel in the COVID-19 era.
The global tourism body says while the UK’s world-leading vaccine rollout is to be applauded, the Travel & Tourism sector cannot wait for every member of the public to be vaccinated.
Instead, WTTC has urged the government’s Global Travel Taskforce to focus on a combination of vaccines, testing, digital health passes and health and safety protocols, such as mandatory face mask-wearing, as the way to unlocking the door to travel.
A study conducted by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) released supports the need for rapid testing. Its research shows that rapid antigen tests are, on average, 60% cheaper than PCR tests and that the cost impact of PCR testing will reduce demand by an average of 65%.
This combination of measures would also help save millions of jobs and livelihoods which depend on the sector and accelerate the much-needed economic recovery.
WTTC has also strongly advocated the government shift its risk assessment from entire countries to that of the individual ‘high-risk’ traveller, to more quickly enable the return of safe travelling.
The crucial return of international travel would especially provide a boost to suffering SMEs, which were particularly affected as they make up 80% of all businesses in the sector, predominantly employing women, youths, and many minorities.
The social impact of the virtual collapse of the sector has been an important concern for WTTC which has sought to highlight the plight of all those affected, particularly focusing on issues of mental health and other pressing social issues exacerbated by the pandemic.
WTTC has been working with the UK government to produce a clear roadmap which the whole Travel & Tourism sector can work towards, enabling them to prepare for so they can ramp up operations and ensure they make the most of the peak summer season.
Gloria Guevara, WTTC President & CEO, said: “We have no doubt that the government understands the critical importance of providing a clear road map for the struggling Travel & Tourism sector to find its way back to operating fully and, essentially, profitability.
“The UK government should take advantage of its incredible vaccine rollout and enable the resumption of safe international travel through a comprehensive testing programme for non-vaccinated Brits and importantly, in time for the all-important summer season.
“We must allow the Travel & Tourism sector to take full advantage of the peak summer season to enable it to recoup as much as it can from the return of safe international travel.
“We have been encouraged that the government is, at last, listening to the sector and hope that the Global Travel Task Force will clearly and unambiguously lay out exactly what travel will look like in their phased rollout from 17 May.
“It’s vital that the sector, business travellers and holidaymakers all understand what will happen and when so they can clearly plan and prepare for the return of travel.
“We believe a combination of vaccines, testing, digital health passes and health and safety protocols, including mandatory face mask-wearing, will unlock travel.
“Travel & Tourism is a powerhouse waiting to jumpstart the world economic recovery.”
Last week, the World Travel & Tourism Council’s annual Economic Impact Report (EIR) revealed the full crippling impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global Travel & Tourism sector which last year suffered a catastrophic loss of more than US$4bn.
The annual research showed the sector’s contribution to GDP dropped a staggering 49.1%, as the sector struggled to survive in the face of crippling travel restrictions and unnecessary quarantines.