In support of The Telegraph’s new Unlock Long Haul campaign, aimed at kickstarting travel to destinations beyond Europe, nearly 70 travel bosses have written to the Foreign Secretary to demand that its blanket advisory against “non-essential travel” is lifted after lockdown.
Since March, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has warned against all “non-essential” overseas travel, but exempts destinations that “do not pose an unacceptably high risk for British travellers”. In the summer, much of Europe fell into this category. However, with Covid cases now rising across the continent, that list is shrinking. Yet the vast majority of long-haul destinations – including almost every nation in Africa and Latin America – are still being snubbed. This is despite many having a far lower case rate than the UK.
The letter to Dominic Raab (reproduced here), signed by the bosses of leading firms including Last Frontiers, Martin Randall, Steppes Travel, Transindus, Dragoman, Explore Worldwide and Sunvil, as well as trade organisations such as the Association of Independent Tour Operators, points out that the FCDO advisory means those who wish to travel to non-exempt countries must do so with “inadequate or no insurance, something the Government’s own Travel Aware campaign was set up to avoid.” They are also, in nearly all cases, required to self-isolate when they return to Britain – a barrier that is further stifling business.
Specialist long-haul tour firms employ thousands of highly-trained sales and operations staff, as well as expert guides. In the UK, the winter sun travel market is invaluable to holiday businesses and supports millions of jobs across destination countries – many of which are developing nations.
As the letter to Mr Raab warns, “We all either work for or represent specialist and long-haul tour operators, and have all had to make valued members of staff redundant. Even more tragically, we have all seen increasing levels of poverty, poaching, and other environmental damage in destination countries.”
Many winter-sun destinations, from Costa Rica to Egypt, are now fully open to tourists, including those from Britain. Most have falling or stable coronavirus case rates, have recorded far fewer deaths per capita than the UK, and many have state-of-the-art medical facilities that, in a worst-case scenario, can be accessed using travel insurance.
Restrictions on entry vary. Some countries check the temperature of arriving travellers, others require them to take a PCR test before departure, and in some cases travellers must complete a period of quarantine. Several countries, including Brazil, don’t require anything of those arriving by air.