The UK government should “bear the cost of hugely expensive and unnecessary PCR tests” according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
The WTTC said that the government should pay for PCR tests for double vaccinated citizens, who are deterred from travelling due to the expense of the testing regime.
PCR tests provide genomic sequencing data which is used by the government to identify variants of concern, understand transmission and slow the spread of the virus, however the WTTC challenges why consumers should bear the cost of this.
If the government does not agree to pay for the PCR tests, the global tourism body says that it should “at the very least” replace the PCR requirement for Day 2 tests from green and amber countries with more affordable antigen tests for fully vaccinated travellers – only those who test positive would then need to take an additional PCR test.
Under the WTTC’s proposal, unvaccinated visitors would still need to take a test on departure and a PCR test on Day 2 of their return.
This news comes after the UK health secretary Sajid Javid asked the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigate the “excessive” pricing and “exploitative practices” among PCR testing firms.
According to the WTTC, the average cost of a PCR test is approximately £75, though some firms are offering express PCR test results within 90 minutes for up to £400. With the 20 per cent VAT charge applied on top, UK PCR tests are believed to be among the most expensive in Europe.
Virginia Messina, WTTC Senior Vice President and Acting CEO, said:
“For many people – especially families and small businesses on a budget – the crippling added cost of the unnecessary PCR tests makes the difference between being able to travel or not. It’s clear that many British adults simply can’t afford to travel overseas at all if they have to pay the excessive cost of PCR tests.
“More affordable antigen tests, with PCR tests for those who do test positive, will help keep travellers safe and make taking a trip overseas within the budget of most people.
“But if the government wants extra information for genomic sequencing – they should pay for it. If they don’t pay, then consumers will vote with their feet and avoid international travel altogether, further damaging the already struggling UK Travel & Tourism sector.
“At the very least, we support the investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to look into the excessive pricing of PCR tests which is deterring the revival of international travel.
“But unless the government sees sense and accepts the financial responsibility for PCR tests for the fully vaccinated, WTTC fears the UK Travel & Tourism sector is going to continue to buckle while demand for travel remains depressed.”
Research carried out by YouGov in May revealed that almost half of British adults (47 per cent) viewed the financial costs of testing as a main barrier to international travel.
Various industry bodies have called for the reduction in the cost of Covid-19 tests, which have hampered the revival of international travel.
Last month The International Air Transport Association (IATA) once again called on governments to take action: