Decline in international visitors blamed on costly UK Covid tests
The London Eye, London

International travellers are put off coming to the UK due to costly Covid testing that is “tougher than the rest of Europe”.

Industry body the World Travel and Tourism Council has revealed that spending by international visitors is forecast to fall by nearly 50 per cent this year compared with 2020.

The UK’s reputation as a place to visit took a hit also in December last year when the Kent strain, now known as Alpha, was first detected. Visit Britain, the UK tourism agency, revised its forecast tourism figures calculating the variant would cost the economy £2.4bn.

Later came optimism with Britain’s speedy roll-out of its Covid-19 vaccine. It was hoped tourism would quickly return but when the costly PCR tests and hotel quarantine were introduced many would-be-travellers were left questioning if they needed to make that trip Britain. 

Finally on Thursday the Government announced it would scrap the PCR test and replace it with a cheaper day-two lateral flow test, which costs from around £20.

The change comes in on Sunday 24th October. It means anyone arriving in to the UK from a green list country, including Britons returning from trips abroad, will be required to pay for a day-two lateral flow test. They won’t be able to enter the UK without providing a booking reference number to complete the lengthly passenger locator form. Plus they will need to send a photograph of their test to the provider.

Despite a downturn in international visitors WTTC revealed the UK had seen a partial tourism recovery due to a boom in staycations.

President Julia Simpson warned this would not be enough to save tourism jobs warning the UK would continue to suffer losses until restrictions were eased further.

She said: “WTTC research shows that while the global travel and tourism sector is beginning to recover, the UK continues to suffer big losses due to continuing travel restrictions that are tougher than the rest of Europe.

“Despite government announcements, the UK still has a red list, costly PCR tests and a requirement for day-two tests which simply put people off travel.

“Just as the world opens up, the UK has more requirements for the double vaccinated than our neighbours.”

Mark Tanzer from trade organisation Abta said international travel had been forced into a “mini-ice age”.

He said: “We desperately needed to see the restrictions and testing requirements eased, and we’re glad that the Government has finally responded to our calls.”

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