If rumours that the UK’s traffic light system will be scrapped in October are truthful, this could mark a pivotal point in UK travel recovery post-Covid-19.

The UK has had a traffic light system in place since April 2021, grading countries based on the rise of new variants, the rollout of vaccinations and the general level of Covid-19 infection. The new system anticipated to be launched may allow fully vaccinated travellers to go to countries with similar levels of vaccination as the UK. The UK has been praised in its vaccination efforts therefore, potential travel destinations will also be highly vaccinated negating any need for quarantine. If this form of system is reciprocated in destinations worldwide, it would be a welcome relief for the travel sector and mark a major stepping stone for a meaningful travel restart.

A welcome stepping stone for post-pandemic travel

Scrapping the UK traffic light system would be a relief to all industries across the sector. Travel intermediaries and airlines have been the most vocal for the traffic light system to be scrapped, but it will be welcomed by all. Fundamental changes have long been needed to give travellers simple, understandable and cohesive travel updates.

Reliability is of major influence for UK consumers. How ‘familiar/trust-worthy/risk-free the product/service’ feels ‘always’, ‘often’ and ‘somewhat’ influenced 82% of UK respondents in GlobalData’s Q12021 consumer survey*. Aspects to consider here is that there is likely a high desire for certainty and reliability for holiday bookings from consumers. The UK’s traffic light system has not necessarily been something tourists can rely on due to rapidly changing restrictions causing a scramble to return home to avoid quarantine. In the past, even ‘amber’ listed destinations have likely been perceived as risky options for international travel. Yet if there are simply two options instated within the new strategy, UK tourists will be more willing to travel to a wider variety of destinations.

Success depends on reciprocal actions

One of the main deterrents for an international travel restart has been quarantine. GlobalData’s poll** found that quarantine requirements were the main deterrent for international travel for 58% of respondents, followed closely by travel restrictions (55%) and fear of contracting the virus (50%).

According to GlobalData’s Covid-19 country dashboard, the majority of destinations worldwide still have partial travel restrictions in place. This means even though UK tourists are permitted to travel to green destinations, they may face quarantine upon arrival at their end destination and still have to pay for multiple tests. Avoiding confusion will be critical going forward to not undermine consumer confidence and assist businesses in generating much-needed revenues. Other destinations have also adopted traffic light grading systems for international travel and the UK’s move to potentially remove this barrier could end up being reciprocated more widely. This would greatly aid travel in its recovery.

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*GlobalData’s Q1 2021 consumer survey – 545 UK respondents

**GlobalData’s Poll – closed 18th May 2021 – 1,361 responses