The announcement of a shortening of stringent quarantine measures in the UK through airport testing has been identified as a step towards travel recovery. However, financial constraints for travellers – caused by the pandemic – is a barrier which will hinder UK travel recovery and may negate impact of this initiative.

UK travellers may have to pay up to £150 to do a test once they have returned from an international trip. Whilst this may reduce the quarantine period extensively to five days rather than 14, many travellers may not be willing to pay this extra fee, which will significantly bump up the cost of a holiday.

45% of UK travellers are ‘extremely concerned’ about the economic situation in the country they are living in, whilst 21% are ‘extremely concerned’ about their own personal financial situation and 30% ‘quite concerned’ (GlobalData’s latest consumer survey, 16th – 20th September 2020).

Airport testing has been a long disputed subject between travel and tourism industries and the UK Government. The initiative to reduce stringent quarantine measures through testing is a step in the right direction, but may not lead to a boom in UK outbound travel in the later stages of 2020.

A reduced quarantine period may help restore some consumer confidence but travel is not a priority

In July, blanket quarantine restrictions for the UK were lifted with ‘travel corridors’ identified to countries with low infection rates of the virus. Since then, the list of countries on the UK exemption list has decreased each week as destinations worldwide experience a second wave of infections.

The fluctuating air corridor situation has battered travel confidence. The prospect of having to quarantine for 14 days when arriving back in the UK is simply not feasible for many. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) found that 80% of travellers would not fly if any form of quarantine is in place.

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GlobalData’s latest consumer survey (16th – 20th September) found that only 25% of UK travellers are concerned about the current restrictions on international travel, whilst 55% stated that due to the current situation, they are staying home as much as possible. Holidays are simply not a priority for many right now as they are a ‘recreational expense’ and not deemed as a necessity.

A step in the right direction for travel recovery

This new initiative is expected to be rolled out in November 2020. Despite months of campaigning for an initiative to be introduced to reduce quarantine measures, the announcement only received a ‘warmish’ response from operators such as easyJet, Virgin Atlantic, Heathrow Airport and Manchester Airports Group.

Major players in the travel sector expected this initiative to roll out sooner after potential plans were announced on 5 October 2020. The reduction in government financial support combined with little demand in the winter period poses a challenging outlook for travel and tourism companies in the short-term.