The government has published (via Twitter) an update to its list of travel destinations under the traffic light system. The announcement came first from Northern Ireland, and has been mirrored by England, Wales and Scotland.

As widely expected, Malta has been added to the green list, with the Balaeric Islands and the Caribbean nations of Antigua, Barbados, Barbuda, Dominica and Grenada added to a green ‘watchlist’, meaning at any moment these may be turned ‘amber’.

In addition, the UK overseas territories of Anguilla and Montserrat, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Pitcairn, and Turks and Caicos Islands have also been added to the green watchlist.

The news was tweeted by the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps

The update is unlikely to offer much comfort to the embattled travel industry in general, and those businesses which rely on business travel particularly.

British Airways’ Chairman and CEO, Sean Doyle’s, response was,

“While we welcome the additions to the green list, it’s essential we get travel back up and running as soon as possible. We cannot afford another missed summer. There are jobs at stake, Britons separated from family members and we cannot afford to allow the success of our vaccine programme to be wasted.

Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, said:

“Today’s review of the traffic light system is bitterly disappointing.  The Government is cutting-off British businesses and causing further damage to our economy. For every week that major business travel destinations aren’t added to the green list, UK GDP loses at least £3 billion from trips that can’t happen.

“The failure to update on the progress of the Transatlantic Taskforce shows the Government’s lack of understanding of the dire straits the travel industry as a whole is facing. As other nations open-up for international travel and trade, we remain in virtual lockdown. With nearly 200,000 jobs lost already, targeted financial support must be offered to protect jobs and companies across the travel industry.

“Public safety is the priority, but the Government must listen to the data and experts to enable small, medium and large businesses to operate on the international stage.”

Johan Lundgren, easyJet CEO said:

“While we welcome the addition of Malta, Madeira and the Balearics to the Green list, this is still not the safe and sustainable reopening of travel the Government promised. This limited reopening is not justified by the data. The science shows that travel to many European countries would have very little impact on hospitalisation and this is even more the case now given that Covid cases in Europe have declined, with many countries having lower infection rates than the UK. We will be adding additional flights to these destinations to take as many people away as we can.

“With two thirds of UK adults expected to be double jabbed by 19 July, now is the time to let British citizens take advantage of the success of the vaccination programme. The timetable set out by the Government simply isn’t ambitious enough. What are we waiting for? The apps are in place and airlines are ready to go so we urge the Government to move more quickly and remove both quarantine and testing for fully vaccinated people.

“Europe already has a plan to enable restriction free travel for the double jabbed and easyJet is ready and able to ramp up. We look forward to playing our part in reuniting people with their loved ones for the first time in many months.”

In practical terms, the addition of countries to a green watchlist when many of those same countries are concerned about the Delta variant prevalent in the UK and may require testing and quarantine from the UK will do little to encourage bookings this summer.

ABTA Chief Executive, Mark Tanzer, said: “Every addition to the green list is welcome, but in reality – with several of these popular holiday destinations being placed on the green watchlist – this will not on its own deliver the meaningful restart of international travel that the industry desperately needs.”

In addition, as pointed out by Virginia Messina, World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Senior Vice President, said: “…all but Malta have been placed on the so-called ‘green watchlist’, which will cause further confusion for holidaymakers and dampen demand.

“We are … disappointed that a date hasn’t been set for quarantine-free travel for double-jabbed Brits returning from amber list holiday hotspots, which would allow the industry time to prepare and travellers time to plan. Why are we still waiting and not taking advantage of the UK’s highly-successful vaccine rollout?”

There is still no transparency with regards to the data being used to inform the decisions being taken, and no date given for when double-vaccinated adults will be allowed to travel to ‘amber’ destinations.

Sean Doyle commented

“The plans to allow vaccinated travellers to move freely this summer are critical and we would urge Government to work urgently with the aviation industry to get this in place.

“We would also like to understand whether this means our customers will benefit from reduced or eradicated costly testing procedures. A change in the official FCDO advice to allow people to travel to amber list countries will be critical to the success of this plan.”

Chair of the Transport Select Committee, Huw Merriman MP said:“In the latest analysis of figures from NHS Test and Trace, only 0.4 per cent of passengers to amber list destinations between May and June tested positive for coronavirus. For 151 of the previous 167 amber list countries, there were no positive cases at all. The Government must apply its own logic of using the data to admit going abroad is safe for those who have had both jabs. They must consider this in time for the start of the July summer holidays.”

“As we dither, the EU is considering imposing two weeks quarantine on visitors from the UK. This would be madness. 60 per cent of our population have been double-jabbed. PHE research shows that immunisation reduces the chance of onward virus transmission by 40 – 60 per cent. Yes, the EU are only at 28 per cent of their population being double-jabbed but our citizens can provide proof of jab and test before they travel.

“In a good year, UK tourists spend £25 billion in the EU and directly support 380,000 jobs. That’s a lot of cash and a lot of furlough for the richer EU nations to pay to the Mediterranean countries. Of course, the Government have been too slow to allow us to go and spend our vaccine dividend so it’s a lower compensation bill than it could be.

“This muddle shows the need for the UK Government and the EU to work together to allow us to travel to each other’s shores using the vaccination certificate or testing and leave quarantine behind.”