The travel industry has reacted largely with anger to the latest set of changes for arrivals to the UK – with Brittany Ferries describing eased travel restrictions as “too little and too late to save our summer season”.
France’s controversial “amber plus” status will end at 4am on Sunday 8 August, along with the red listing of India, the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar.
Seven European nations have been moved from the amber list to the low-risk green list – though not all of them are open to British visitors.
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “While we must continue to be cautious, today’s changes reopen a range of different holiday destinations across the globe, which is good news for both the sector and travelling public.”
But by the time the changes take effect, France, the second most popular holiday destination (after Spain) for British holidaymakers will have spent 20 days with mandatory quarantine in place.
The UK government took a tougher line on France than other European Union nations because of fears of the Beta variant – prevalent on the island of Reunion.
Nigel Wonnacott of Brittany Ferries said: “This is good news, but too little and too late to save our summer season.
“Most people have already written-off a summer holiday in France, thanks to the government’s shambolic and baseless implementation of self-quarantine for homecoming travellers.”
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership, tweeted: “The latest traffic light review shows a true lack of ambition by the government in not opening the green list further and removing the need for pre-departure testing for vaccinated people.
“The summer has already been lost and any attempt to save summer is over.”
Abta, the travel association, accused the government of “failing to capitalise fully on the success of the vaccine rollout”.
Its chief executive, Mark Tanzer, said: “The UK is falling behind our European competitors and the opening up of international travel from the UK is progressing at a snail’s pace – making it extremely difficult for travel agents and tour operators to generate enough income to kickstart a recovery, which is desperately needed to protect jobs, businesses and livelihoods.”
The continuing high cost of testing – typically adding £100 to the cost of a trip – was attacked by Johan Lundgren, chief executive of easyJet.
“Government urgently needs to tackle this expensive testing regime which is adding unnecessary cost, especially for the fully vaccinated,” he said.
“No one wants to see flying become a preserve of the rich again – particularly when so many need to get away or reunite after such a long time.”
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, the industry body representing UK-registered carriers, called the changes “another missed opportunity”.
He said: “International travel has not had anything like the reopening it was hoping for. This puts us at odds with our European neighbours and clearly does not represent the liberation of aviation that the prime minister has spoken of.
“Alongside the continuation of expensive testing and a much smaller than hoped for expansion of the green list – which makes less sense by the day given where we are with the vaccination programme – this is yet another blow to the sector.”
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “The government is also failing to address the hurdles putting off consumers from booking, namely not giving a week or more’s notice of a country being moved to amber or red and the high cost of onerous testing.
“Until these are resolved, the government continues to deliberately keep travel in an armlock.”
One voice in support of the transport secretary’s changes was Charlie Cornish, chief executive of Manchester Airports Group.
He said: “We welcome the movement of more countries to the green and amber lists, in what is effectively the final review of the traffic light lists before the end of the summer holidays.
“Together with the new freedoms for fully vaccinated travellers, these changes will enable more people to enjoy a holiday, or reconnect with friends and family, in a growing list of countries.
“It is encouraging to finally see decisions that reflect the data on the ground in these destinations and close the gap with the approach being taken in other countries.
“Government must now take this opportunity to develop a stable, sustainable and affordable system that gives people the confidence to book ahead through the winter and into next year.”
Clive Wratten, chief executive of the Business Travel Association, said: “The opening of routes into the Middle East is of particular significance for business travel.
“It will take some time for business travel to return at scale, but this enables our sector to contribute to UK GDP and the international trading reputation of our country once more.”