The travel trade has welcomed a number of new additions to the UK green list unveiled by the government, but argued much more needs to be done to help the sector.
The Balearic Islands, Malta, the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira and Barbados are among the destinations currently considered safe by officials.
Transport secretary, Grant Shapps, his department was working on plans to allow quarantine-free travel from amber list countries for people who were fully vaccinated.
However, no date was given for the roll-out of such a policy.
In ABTA chief executive, Mark Tanzer, said: “Every addition to the green list is welcome, but in reality – with several of these popular holiday destinations being placed on the green watchlist – this will not on its own deliver the meaningful restart of international travel that the industry desperately needs.
“If the government is going to continue to place such tight constraints on our ability to trade, we need them to commit to a package of tailored financial support for the sector, which recognises that the travel industry’s recovery will be slower than that in other sectors of the economy.
“Travel companies are facing increased furlough and business rates costs next week and – with travel to the most popular holiday destinations still largely restricted – they will simply not have the money to do so.”
He added: “We are glad to hear that the government intends to remove quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers travelling to amber countries, and this needs to be introduced as quickly as possible.
“Other countries are already doing this, and we are now entering the peak summer season – crucial weeks which represent two-thirds of travel companies’ income – with thousands of businesses and livelihoods dependent on getting more people travelling safely as soon as possible.”
ABTA was behind a day of action earlier this week, designed to raise the plight of the travel sector with the government.
Following the latest update, outspoke, MAG group chief executive, Charlie Cornish, said: “This announcement is a long overdue step towards a restart for international travel, giving customers more options when looking to book a holiday this summer.
“However, serious questions remain as to why these destinations weren’t opened-up sooner when there is clear evidence to suggest this could have been done weeks ago.
“At the same time, the government has again failed to publish the data and advice it is using to inform its decisions, which makes it harder to prepare for any future changes to the lists.
“Stating an intention to enable double vaccinated people to travel to amber countries without the need to self-isolate on return is also long overdue and this policy must be implemented as soon as possible.
“Vague and open-ended promises are just not good enough.”
He added: “While UK citizens are stuck at home, Europeans are on the move and taking advantage of their own vaccination programmes to lift restrictions and open-up travel to low-risk destinations.
“The government already has clear evidence on the effectiveness of vaccines, but its sluggish and opaque response to international travel restrictions is squandering our leadership in this area.
“With no transparency from government, we simply cannot understand how ministers are taking these decisions, which are fundamental to the future of a sector that supports more than one jobs and billions of pounds of economic value.”
Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, added the latest loosening of restrictions did not go far enough.
“While it’s positive to see the green list expanded, don’t be fooled,” he said.
“This fundamentally makes absolutely no difference to the £28 billion inbound tourism export industry and the half a million workers whose jobs and livelihoods hang in the balance.
“This puts the government’s Global Britain ambitions at risk.
“The UK’s most valuable markets – the US and Europe – still aren’t on the green list, meaning government has effectively wiped out the UK’s inbound summer season.
“If tourism businesses aren’t allowed to trade their way to recovery, Government must provide sector-specific support until it’s possible to do so.”
Finally, Virginia Messina, WTTC senior vice president, said more destinations would need to be added to the green list to revive the tourism sector.
“Adding more destinations to the green list, including the popular Balearic Islands, is positive news and will come as a welcome boost to both holidaymakers and the struggling tourism sector.
“However, all but Malta have been placed on the so-called ‘green watchlist’, which will cause further confusion for holidaymakers and dampen demand.
“We are also disappointed that a date hasn’t been set for quarantine-free travel for double-jabbed Brits returning from amber list holiday hotspots, which would allow the industry time to prepare and travellers time to plan.
“Why are we still waiting and not taking advantage of the UK’s highly-successful vaccine rollout?”