The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has warned the UK government that, with the furlough scheme coming to an end, it has just 30 days left to save travel businesses which are struggling to survive.
WTTC also warns that unless international travel opens up more widely, with simplified controls, the UK is facing a loss of £59 billion.
Hundreds of thousands of employees in the tourism sector are still benefiting from the furlough scheme, the UK government scheme which is due to end on September 31st.
This date coincides with the next Global Travel Taskforce review on October 1st, and WTTC warns that unless travel is opened up significantly by this date, many more people working in the sector could face losing their jobs due to the ending of government Covid-19-related support as businesses are forced to let people go.
Based on 2019 pre-pandemic levels, WTTC estimates that £59 billion could be lost from the economy if travel remains curtailed over the final quarter of 2021 and, furthermore, £8.9 billion could be lost purely due to the lack of inbound travel spending within the UK.
The UAE has announced a sensible way forward welcoming all fully vaccinated travellers regardless of which country they come from, plus a negative test result, a move that WTTC says will speed up the recovery of its tourism sector and provide a massive boost to its economy.
Julia Simpson, WTTC chief executive, said: “Vast economic wealth and even more jobs in tourism could be lost in 30 days’ time, if significant travel doesn’t resume by the same time the furlough scheme ends.
“Companies are facing a desperate future unless the government supports the sector by introducing sensible controls that build traveller confidence while keeping the UK safe.
“We should allow all fully jabbed citizens and visitors to enter the UK with a negative Covid test.
“There should be no need for quarantine and excessive, expensive testing requirements.”
She added: “The UK government must do everything in its power to protect businesses and jobs in the sector and ensure it doesn’t squander the last quarter of the year.
“This year is in danger of being no better than the last for the tourism sector, despite the incredibly successful vaccine rollout.
“The next 30 days are critical to get travel back on track.
“That means abandoning the traffic lights system and reducing the current testing regime so that it is simpler and cheaper.”
At the same time, the WTTC has criticised a decision from Brussels to recommend EU members reintroduce restrictions on US travellers entering the region.
The decision comes as the Delta variant is sending infections and hospitalisations soaring.
The US is now registering more than 1,000 new cases per day, the highest level since March.
National representatives met earlier this week to discuss and update the list of safe travel countries, a process that takes place every two weeks.
In response, Simpson said: “Protecting public health must remain the priority and WTTC strongly supports safety protocols to stop the spread of Covid-19.
“However, the recommendation to reimpose restrictions on US travellers is a step backwards and will only slow down the recovery of the sector.
“With high vaccination levels in both the US and the EU, we should be looking at opening up travel between these two major economies.
“We need a common set of rules that recognise global vaccines and remove the need to quarantine for people with a negative Covid-19 result.”
She added: “Rather than imposing further damaging travel restrictions, the EU should be encouraging member states to use its ground-breaking Digital Covid-19 Certificate to safely restore international travel, fundamental for the European economy.”