Digital certificates by May is ‘big ask’ Samantha Mayling

Digital Covid vaccination certificates are unlikely to be in place for the restart of international travel – but the government hopes to digitise its Passenger Locator Forms by the summer. A source close to Global

Travel Taskforce talks said Covid certification requirements by destinations could be in place by May 17, but making vaccination status digital by then would be a “big ask”. The government’s primary focus

is making Passenger Locator Forms digital before summer so they can be read at UK airports’ e-gates, avoiding “untenable” arrivals queues in July and August, the source explained.

They said: “Government is aware

it needs to provide some certification for people who are fully-vaccinated if that’s a requirement of the destination, but it may not be until the [taskforce’s June 28] review.” Tourism minister Nigel

Huddleston told the World Travel & Tourism Council’s global summit this week that the UK is working with other countries to align international travel, including vaccine certification. He warned: “It is not going to be

seamless to travel over the next few months, and potentially years, but we want to make it as simple as possible.” Delegates at the Mexico event

welcomed the European Union’s decision to allow vaccinated Americans to visit this summer –

‘Reducing cost of tests will aid summer recovery’

Juliet Dennis

Agents have called for the cost of Covid PCR tests for travel to come down to “sensible” levels of about £25 per passenger to aid the sector’s recovery this summer. Prices for the tests – required

pre-departure and after arrival in the UK for all travellers regardless of destination when travel resumes – vary from £44.90 to more than £200. Abta says costs are £128 on

average, and double the price of tests in some parts of Europe. The EU has agreed tests can be free of VAT and in

4 29 APRIL 2021

some countries costs are capped. Consortia have thrashed out deals

with providers. The Travel Network Group has secured £44.90 and £60 tests with two and The Advantage Travel Partnership has agreed £60 rates for its members. But agents say the cost needs to reduce further for mainstream travellers to book. Polka Dot Travel director Mark

Johnson said: “We need to get the price down to £25 per head maximum, or get the government to help fund the costs.” Spear Travels chairman

Peter Cookson agreed £25 was

“ideal” but suggested a £40 cap. Premier Travel director Paul

Waters said the cost of tests was stopping clients from booking. He added: “We have some families concerned over the potential additional costs. Others already booked are prepared, but not necessarily happy, to pay.” Miles Morgan Travel chairman

Miles Morgan said: “When parts of the EU are paying between £20 and £25 I struggle to understand why it should be any different here. We are being ripped off. It needs to come to a sensible level.” Calls came as a survey of 2,000

It is not going to be

seamless to travel over the next few months, but we want to make it as simple as possible

but Brussels is yet to open discussions with the UK about mutual recognition of vaccine certification. Fernando Valdés Verelst, Spain’s

tourism minister, told delegates the country would welcome visitors from June and is trialling certification at all 46 airports in May. However, he warned that travellers

also need more certainty when returning to their home countries –

without which only “one side of the equation” is solved. Greece will open from May 14 for

tourists with proof of vaccination or a negative test. Tourism minister Harry Theoharis told delegates his country’s progress will put pressure on others to open borders. Tui Group chief executive

Fritz Joussen told the summit that quarantine is “toxic” for the industry and pointed to a “huge pick-up in bookings” for Americans. British Airways chief executive

Sean Doyle said the British government needs to find a way to link NHS vaccination records to digital certification apps to help vaccinated travellers avoid restrictions.

Tests range from £44.90 to more than £200

consumers found 49% of Britons are prepared to pay up to £25 for a PCR test to travel. The Opinium poll, commissioned by insurance provider Battleface in March, showed only 4% were willing to pay £75 or more; 40% would not pay for a family; and 33% were not prepared to pay at all. Agents and operators in the

luxury sector said the “hassle” of finding a test centre and availability 72 hours before departure was more of a concern than cost. Amanda Matthews, managing director of agency Designer Travel, said: “Clients are not worried at all about the costs. It’s the availability and ‘hassle factor’.”

PICTURE: Shutterstock/Girts Ragelis

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