The travel industry has reacted with anger to suggestions from senior politicians that Brits should avoid booking holidays for the upcoming summer.
Transport secretary, Grans Shapps, said it was “too early” to consider plans for the summer as the Covid-19 pandemic continued to sweep the country.
However, condemnation was quick, with Sue Ockwell, leader of the Association of Independent Tour Operators, branding the comments “puerile and nonsensical”.
“We are talking about the end of May or June, which is a long way off,” she added.
The sentiments were echoed by the European Travel Commission (ETC), which strongly condemned the new enforcement measures for travellers announced by the government.
As well as introducing two mandatory tests after arrival and obligatory quarantine packages for travellers from red list countries, the new rules include heavy financial penalties and potential jail time for non-compliance.
Travellers arriving from high-risk countries now face possible imprisonment of up to ten years for not disclosing the correct travel information.
Following the announcement, ETC president, Luís Araújo, said: “Travellers are not felons and should not face several legal repercussions for arriving back home from another country.
“Throughout this crisis, we have learned that blanket restrictions are not the way forward, especially in countries with already high levels of community transmission.
“It is crucial to strike a balance between sensible public health measures and preserving connectivity and citizens’ mobility.
“We firmly believe that the process of vaccination, testing on arrival and departure, together with efficient tracing systems and hygiene measures, will safely restore movement between countries.
“We are calling all the national and international organisations in the travel and tourism sector to firmly condemn these measures and support solutions which are universally beneficial to the industry and to international relations.”
At the same time, the European Tourism Association said the government must show how restrictions will eventually be lifted.
Tom Jenkins, chief executive of the group, said: “What potential visitors need is a clear indication of when border restrictions are likely to be lifted, and under what conditions.
“This is business which our members have on their books.
“The clients who wanted to travel to Europe still want to do so.
“The risks they pose, which are already very low as compared with the general population in destination are diminishing by the day.
“Yet no indication is being given if Europe wants them to return this year.”
He added: “This business represents sustenance in time of famine.
“It is export income, not domestic spend.
“Europe is viewed as a single destination by long-haul visitors: it is what they think of and is their goal when planning a trip.
“So there has to be a co-ordinated response from the Schengen area to define what it takes for business to resume.”
A similar picture is emerging in Scotland, which has introduced even tougher measures.
Alan Glen, council member of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA), explained: “The whole travel sector is on its knees and we are asking once again, with a collective voice, for a proactive route map from the Scottish and UK governments for how the travel sector can navigate out of this current situation and move towards meaningful recovery.
“Scotland needs its connectivity.
“As a small nation we need our flight routes to enable us to do business with the rest of the world.
“By reactively cutting off this connectivity, and by having different requirements in both Scotland and England for managed quarantine, there is currently no strategic view on how we can plan for recovery.”
He added: “Outbound travellers are worth around £1.5 billion to the Scottish economy and in bond tourism is worth around £2.5 billion.
“How can Scotland make an economic recovery from this pandemic if we are happy to cut off these sums of money?
“Staycations have been mooted as a tourism lifeline, but it is unlikely that Scots alone will be able staycation the economy back to these levels.
“We urgently need a route map.”