'Flattened' UK travel industry protests over government restrictions
Nicole Johnston in London


Thousands of pilots, travel agents, tour operators, travel company staff and guides have protested across the UK at the British government's restrictions on international travel.

Hundreds of people from the industry rallied outside Westminster in London, holding placards and calling for the government to start listening to them.

They're demanding the government eases the restrictions on the so-called traffic light system for international travel. Countries are graded as green, amber or red according to their perceived COVID-19 risk status.

Only a handful of countries have been granted green status, making it difficult for British people to travel abroad. Amber list countries require a minimum five days of home quarantine when people return to the UK.

The government says it is looking into allowing people who have received two vaccines to travel without quarantining on return.



Chairman of the Association for Touring and Adventure Specialists, Brian Young, says: "The travel industry has been on hold for 15 months."

Adding: "We had an opportunity last summer to open up but it only lasted a short amount of time.” 

Young explains the government caused travel chaos when it reintroduced the traffic light system a month ago but within three weeks moved Portugal from green to amber.

"You then had this scramble with people trying to get back to the UK to beat the self-isolation deadline," Young says. "It costs them money, it's stressful and the knock-on effect for consumer confidence is massive."

Inbound tour operators also say they are suffering because foreign tourists don't want to travel to the UK.

Kate Underwheel is a self-employed London tour guide. She says her sector has been "absolutely flattened" and she's had no work since February last year.

"It's hit everything concerned with tourism in London, the restaurants, the cafes and hotels. It's hit Westminster Abbey, St Paul's Cathedral, the Tower of London and Windsor Castle.

On Thursday, the government will announce whether there will be any changes to its green list of countries but there is little optimism in the industry.


Hundreds of people including pilots, cabin crew and travel agents gathered outside the House of Parliament. /CGTN Europe

Hundreds of people including pilots, cabin crew and travel agents gathered outside the House of Parliament. /CGTN Europe


The sector is calling on the government to expand the travel green list and extend the furlough scheme until April next year.

The travel industry estimates almost 200,000 jobs are at stake in the UK as well as hundreds of thousands of jobs that depend on the wider industry to survive.

"It's not just about the UK economy but also the communities around the world where our tours operate," says Young.

As the travel industry looks across at the Europe, which has already reopened for the summer, despair and frustration is growing.

"The UK is one of the best vaccinated countries in the world and I think you need a system that will give people confidence to book," Young adds.

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