Holidays abroad could be off until 2022 if the Government brings in quarantine hotels for all passengers to prevent new Covid variants reaching the UK, industry chiefs and MPs have warned.
The Cabinet coronavirus operations committee will meet on Tuesday to finalise Australia and New Zealand-style hotel quarantine that will cost travellers up to £1,500 for 10 days self-isolating, with meals served in their rooms and supervised by private security guards.
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, is resisting proposals by Cabinet "hawks", thought to include Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, and Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, for all arrivals to be subject to hotel quarantine.
Mr Shapps wants to limit the measure to passengers from only "high risk" countries in which variants of Covid have emerged.
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Travel bosses warned on Monday that quarantine hotels would be "catastrophic" for the industry and were likely to last through the summer and winter as long as new virus variants remained to potentially threaten the effectiveness of vaccines.
Writing for The Telegraph, Gloria Guevara, the chief executive of the World Travel and Tourism Council, representing the world's biggest 200 travel operators, said there was the prospect of a "significant period of time" under such measures which would cause "incalculable damage".
A senior airline chief said: "Other countries are unlikely to have vaccinated their populations by the autumn or winter, so is the Government saying the measures will have to stay in place unless the virus disappears in the summer?"
Paul Charles, the chief executive of travel consultancy the PC Agency, said: "Boris Johnson needs to set an end date otherwise the restrictions could easily be in place until Easter next year. You only have to look at Australia, with its restrictions expected to remain into next year."
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Henry Smith, the Tory chair of the all-party Future of Aviation Group, urged Mr Johnson to set an exit strategy of mid to late spring.
On Monday, the Prime Minister confirmed that the hotel plans were being "actively worked on", saying: "We need a solution that gives us the maximum possible protection against reinfection from abroad."
Professional footballers and other elite athletes are, however, likely to be exempt from hotel quarantine, while healthcare staff and seasonal agricultural workers will have to self-isolate. A Government source said removing the exemption would be "devastating" for sport but added that clubs were being advised "the fewer trips the better and only where absolutely necessary".
Mr Hancock appeared to hedge when asked whether he backed quarantine hotels for all passengers, saying only that the Government would adopt a "precautionary principle" but that travel was already illegal but for limited specified reasons.