When news of the new Omicron variant emerged, it was obvious it was going to be bad news for the country as a whole and travel in particular.
The exponential growth rate of Omicron means further restrictions on our liberty will be needed and a lockdown circuit breaker in January, involving the shutdown of the hospitality sector and restrictions on indoor meetings seemingly inevitable.
However, the rapid spread of Omicron and its relatively mild nature compared to other variants, hopefully, means it’s likely to be a short, sharp crisis, with an emergence the other side by March/April 2022 allowing Summer overseas holidays to proceed as they did for the second half of Summer 21.
The travel industry has already proved itself to be extremely resilient, however, the wholesale cancelling of winter Ski and winter sun holidays could cause a cash-flow hit that sends many companies to the wall.
President Macrons, politically motivated move to ban UK citizens from Holidaying in France, will be a killer blow to many UK Travel businesses if it proves anything more than a temporary measure.
France already has an Omicron wave sweeping across it and statistics indicate it is only a few days behind the UK’s own wave of infections. Therefore, locking its borders to UK Citizens who have been double/tripled jab and passed lateral flow/PCR Covid-19 testing before arriving makes no logical sense. The rate of internal infections caused by French citizens mixing over Christmas in houses, pubs, restaurants, and supermarkets is likely to have 1,000s of times more impactful than the entry of foreign holidaymakers.
Hitting tourists is therefore simply a high-profile gimmick from a set of politicians desperate to be seen doing something.
I personally think insisting that all travellers should be double jabbed and have passed a simple lateral flow test before boarding any flight is a logical and reasonable requirement. It also provides those flying with extra reassurance that flying on crowded aircraft is Covid safe, boosting bookings.
I can even understand why countries with low infection rates demand the more expensive and higher quality laboratory-based PCR tests, as they do not want a high level of infections to enter the country via tourism. However, the moment a variant like Omicron has taken a grip in a country, this is completely pointless, as the domestic-based spreading of people visiting venues without the need for Covid testing will cause a much higher rate of transmission.
The UK Government’s own requirement for 2-day isolation and a PCR test for release is also completely ineffective and a politically motivated “token gesture”. Is it surprising other countries pose the same illogical conditions on UK tourists, as their citizens face when entering the UK?
The most illogical and unforgivable piece of UK politics is the continued refusal to allow UK outbound travellers to use NHS facilities to take the PCR or lateral flow tests that the Government is demanding for travel. As stated, many times, travellers should pay a fee for these tests of around £12.50 per lateral flow and £22.50 for PRCs to cover costs and generate a small profit for the NHS. Leaving private companies to rip off travellers with unregulated pricing is simply inexcusable and shows either a complete lack of understanding or care at the dire state the UK outbound travel sector is in.
The Macron V Boris Brexit fight is clearly the motivation for the UK being the only European country that France has banned tourism from and is, unfortunately, an indication of the unwanted Brexit dividend the UK travel industry is likely to reap.
The reaction of other key holiday destinations such as Spain, Greece, and Turkey in the coming weeks is crucial, as European Union leaders seek to harmonise Covid-19 entry policies across the bloc. A short term hit to ski holidays is a high price for ski specialists, but uncertainty about the ability to enter key holiday destinations in Summer 2022 will be disastrous, as it would generate a massive wave of cancellations as well as killing new bookings dead.
I regret to say its politicians like Macon who threaten the future of our industry even more than Omicron itself.