Lift-off on travel welcome, but ‘traffic lights’ present stop-go challenges says RSM
Whilst the announcement to loosen travel restrictions on certain overseas destinations is welcome news, RSM has voiced concern over the major challenges posed by the government’s mooted traffic light plan. It believes the system is too ‘stop-go’ in nature and so won’t allow travel operators to make short-term business critical decisions.
Blanket restrictions on non-essential overseas travel will be relaxed in the UK from 4 July. Holidaymakers will be allowed to travel to certain countries without quarantine measures on their return from 10 July.
Ian Bell, partner and head of Travel and Tourism at RSM, said: ‘The lifting of travel restrictions is the long-awaited good news that the travel industry has been waiting for, but with the introduction of the traffic light system, we’re moving from black and white guidance to forcing businesses to operate within many shades of grey. This stop-go guidance will mean businesses at times won’t know whether they’re coming or going.
‘Moving forward with caution is key to ensuring longer term success, but this very variable system creates uncertainty and risk, and so won’t allow businesses to make short to medium term decisions that are critical to their longer-term survival.’
A traffic light system will classify countries as green, amber and red depending on the prevalence of coronavirus, but the colour of those lights could interchange at any time depending on how the virus fluctuates from country to country.
Ian Bell says: ‘The challenges that this system presents for travel businesses is far more complex and severe than that presented to retail operators, for instance, who at least have the ability to shut-up-shop to offset operational and cash-flow loses. Travel companies on the other hand, once back up and running, need to commit to more in terms of cost and cross-border operations. If a light changes from green or amber to red at a moment’s notice, those very multi-layered commitments are hugely compromised.’
‘Travel businesses now face multiple challenges and risks in reopening. They will take on significantly higher operating costs at a time when government financial support is winding down; managing the logistics of providing Covid-secure travel to destinations; increased communication to customers on guidelines that keep changing, and; ensuring that ‘T’s and C’s’ protect their businesses from future claims if customers are unhappy with the travel experience, or worse still if outbreaks occur at destination.
‘The industry is hungry to get back to business, and the government has sought to meet that very real demand, which is good news and positive progress, but the long haul to creating more certainty for those businesses to thrive has only just begun.’