Foreign holidays could remain outlawed until the end of summer with staycation trips blocked until June, travel bosses fear.
Industry chiefs have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson demanding to know when foreign travel will be allowed after leaks suggested the ban would continue until well into the second half of the year.
Experts are concerned any further restrictions – despite the vaccine rollout- will be the final nail in the coffin for many travel companies and holiday businesses.
All leisure travel within and from the UK has been banned since the start of the third lockdown in January and there are indications it will remain until all adults have been offered a jab.
Travel trade body Abta said 160,000 jobs have already been lost in the industry, in a letter to the PM.
It added: “The government should recognise that we cannot wait for the full rollout of the vaccination programme before people start to travel again.
“With the vaccine rollout now progressing well, and as you look to how the lockdown can be eased, we ask you to provide a roadmap to get people travelling again this summer.
“We know that it is too early to put a specific date on the return to international travel, and that there will be a need for flexibility in the approach, but what we need are some principles for restarting travel – recognising that the return to normal life will never be entirely risk-free. We also encourage coordination across the UK, where possible.”
Tour operators have also stated they want travel to resume as soon as possible.
Holiday company Tui said: “We know how important summer holidays are for our customers and believe that with a risk-based approach with can work with government to safely unlock travel this summer.
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“We would like to reassure customers that we are constantly reviewing our flexibility policy and have been cancelling holidays on a rolling basis, in line with confirmed government advice.”
The SOS travel trade pressure group tweeted: “By mid-May, 16 million “at-risk” UK citizens will have had two jabs. Those 16 million should be free to travel as the data, from # Israel and the # UK , is clearly showing how well protected they will be. ”
While John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport, added: “This third lockdown has been especially difficult for many because of the inability to plan for the future, with reunions, trips abroad and business meetings feeling as though they’ve been placed on hold indefinitely.”
Progress on the next steps out of lockdown will depend on meeting four tests: the success of the vaccine rollout, evidence of vaccine efficacy, an assessment of new variants, and keeping infection rates below a level that could put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
However, Number 10 insisted that the “stay at home” message would remain in place despite the relaxation of some restrictions.
-- to www.walesonline.co.uk