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August 20, 2021

Test and trace price reduction not enough to support UK tourism recovery

NHS Test and Trace tests for arrivals into the UK have reduced in price by 23% as of August 2021.

By Globaldata Travel and Tourism

The decision to reduce the price of tests was greeted with negative sentiment from industry bodies and travellers alike who feel that the change has come too late in the summer season and still does not represent value for money. As a result, the UK’s tourism industry continues to suffer, with both inbound and outbound travel recovery subdued. UK travellers returning, and tourists seeking to visit the UK must pay for these tests as a condition of entry. GlobalData forecasts suggest arrivals into the UK will be down 70% in 2021 and outbound UK trips down 48% on pre-pandemic levels (2019).

Inconsistent pricing and unclear rules slow recovery

The cost of NHS Test and Trace tests for arrivals into the UK has reduced from $120 to $93 for fully vaccinated arrivals from green and amber destinations. It is hoped a price drop by private providers will also occur. However, testing is still substantially higher than in parts of Europe, where costs can be as low as €45. With high prices in the UK, recovery could fall behind other nations as travellers will seek the cheapest destination. According to GlobalData’s Q2 2021 Consumer Survey, 31% of Global respondents were ‘extremely concerned’ about their financial situation, highlighting how sensitive travellers could be to rising holiday costs.

The lack of coherency with the UK and Europe’s pricing has created both confusion and anger amongst travellers. With intra-regional travel high across the continent, there must be a set cost for test and trace kits. Not only does it add a substantial cost to a holiday booking, but it adds more complexity for international trips. This is especially concerning within the package holiday industry, where its core product offering is affordable and stress-free holidays. Unfortunately, the current UK test and trace scheme throws this into disarray.

As such, early projections in 2020 had a far more positive outlook for UK tourism, with many experts speculating that the industry would recover by 2023 at the latest. However, test and trace costings and the highly transmissible Delta variant are some of the problems that have emerged since the gradual, albeit fragmented, reopening of international travel. Now latest GlobalData figures suggest recovery will not be attainable until at least 2024 for the UK tourism industry and testing costs add a further deterrent to travel.,

Another lost opportunity to aid travel recovery

A significant review is required to look at the cost of test and trace kits. There needs to be some consistency across Europe, which is heavily reliant on intra-regional travel. Clear-cut, regulated pricing, will create mutual understanding with travellers and businesses alike. However, the slow response to reducing Covid-19 test costs has not helped, and meaningful summer recovery is off the cards. A quicker response could have increased tourist trips, boosted revenue, and reducing the financial burden on travel businesses from the slow return of demand.

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