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Published on Thursday, January 28, 2021

Flight Centre joins call to draw up exit strategy to border shutdown

Flight Centre has joined calls for the government to make clear how it intends to reopen borders and lift draconian quarantine restrictions as the industry come to terms with the near-total shutdown of travel.

Even though the new border controls have yet to be introduced - such as enforced quarantine in hotels - industry leaders have been pleading for the creation of a 'roadmap' to plot a way out of the crisis.

The government has so far resisted pressure to do so, and is thought unlikely to while the Covid crisis is so severe.

It is felt the priority for ministers lie in reopening schools and continuing efforts to vaccinate the UK population ahead of planning a way for travel to resume.

Furthermore, with the situation so unpredicatable, and the fear of new Covid variants so acute, setting any timeframe for the lifting of restrictions would be an impossibility. 

Flight Centre Europe, Middle East and Africa Managing Director Steve Norris said: "We fully support and understand the need to secure our borders against the spread of the virus and fully support the mandatory hotel quarantine for select destinations.

"However, we would like to stress the importance of a transparent exit plan with details including when the hotel quarantine scheme would end and under what circumstances.

"We know the implementation of this policy will have a knock-on effect on the already suffering travel industry and will undoubtedly be detrimental to the UK economy if applied without the government announcing how it sees the scheme being concluded."

Norris called for the government's now disbanded Global Travel Taskforce to be reconvened to plot the path out of the crisis.

"We implore the government to announce a replacement taskforce and offer its reassurances on how it is working on a recovery plan to restart tourism," he said.

"We still fundamentally believe that the government needs to listen, again, to our calls for a world-leading, international and consistent framework for pre-departure testing at airports to boost confidence in travel.

"We also ask ministers to grant an extension of the furlough scheme to support the many workers of this hard-hit industry beyond April.

"Only then do we believe we will see a viable avenue out of these latest measures."

More details of the government's hotel quarantine plan, and how it will work in practice, is set to be released over the next few days.

In Australia, the policy has been in place for months - as has the virtual ban on overseas travel - with the government showing no appetite to lift the restrictions any time soon.  

By Steve Jones, Contributing Editor (UK)

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