Simon Calder, also known as The Man Who Pay His Way, has been writing about travel for The Independent since 1994. In his weekly opinion column, he explores a key issue with travel – and what it means to you.
As you may have noticed, the UK travel industry is in decline. The coronavirus pandemic has started rotting, of course. Tourism and business travel remain well below 2019 levels around the world. Yet, among the major European nations, the UK is behaving particularly badly. While most EU airlines are flying at over 60% of pre-pandemic levels, once powerful UK carriers are stranded at a low altitude of 30%.
At the root of the malaise plaguing the travel industry is uncertainty. Millions of people would love to travel far. But they fear the tangle of bureaucracy they face on arrival in the UK will trap them – as it almost did for a plane full of easyJet passengers from Montenegro, who after the maneuvers of the “red list” at the end of August, avoided 11 nights in the hotel quarantine of only two minutes.
At the root of this uncertainty: puzzling rules. It takes 0.00001 seconds to find endless examples. German, American and Swiss vaccinations will allow recipients to move away from self-isolation upon arrival in the UK, but Australian, Canadian and Japanese vaccines will not. Until a week on Monday, when the latter trio is recognized – but travelers who have been injected in Turkey, India or Brazil still have to spend 10 days in quarantine.
Of all the unfathomable decisions that characterized UK travel this summer, the ‘amber plus’ movement at peak summer has been the most mind-boggling – and extremely costly for individual travelers, ferry companies, airlines and Eurostar. .
Amber plus may seem like the ideal sunscreen brand, but in fact it was the bespoke category of the “traffic light” categories created especially for France, with a Travel Prevention Factor (TPF) of 50.
While travelers from each “ordinary amber” nation who had been fully vaccinated could avoid quarantine, those from France had to self-isolate.
When asked to explain the move, ministers muttered alarming rates of the beta variant on the remote island of Reunion – technically part of France but nearly 6,000 miles from Paris, and she- even strangely exempt from the French stipulation.
At the time of the decision, Spain had a proportion of new beta infections 17 times higher than France and was on the regular amber list; Bulgaria had twice as many beta cases and was on the green list.
Huw Merriman, Conservative MP for Bexhill and Battle, was as puzzled as everyone. As chairman of the select transport committee, he contacted the Joint Biosecurity Center (JBC) – whose recommendations are, we are told, invoked by ministers.
“I wrote to JBC on August 3 to request a response by August 17 to better explain to us why France had gone orange more while Spain had not, while the rates beta appeared to be higher, ”he said.
“No response at all,” Merriman said, five weeks after his deadline expired. “They don’t answer us. They just seem to be a little “Wizard of Oz” about it.
“The JBC looks very grand and authoritative, but the lack of transparency makes me wonder what’s behind the curtain? “
In the week the Prime Minister summoned Kermit the Frog to save the planet from the climate crisis, we need a suitable wizard to save the travel industry.
Right now all I can see on the horizon is reality mimicking art. Do you remember the overly pessimistic Tin Man? “Emerald city? Well, it’s a long and dangerous trip. And it might rain on the way.
I hope the government has no idea of this travel prevention factor.