The UK risks becoming increasingly isolated if it continues to keep the doors closed to significant international travel, says the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
The warning from WTTC, which represents the global Travel & Tourism private sector, comes as figures reveal that forward bookings for international flights are lagging far behind the increased capacity generated by extra flights scheduled.
Airlines have dramatically increased flights to popular holiday destinations - many of which are still on the government’s ‘amber list’ - in anticipation of increased demand.
According to travel data and analytics expert Cirium, in the two weeks following the start of the government's new traffic light system for travel on May 17, scheduled flights from the UK to Greece soared by over 2,000%, with a 435% rise in flights to Spain, compared to two weeks before.
However, while airlines have been ramping up capacity, analysis of recent ticket sales by WTTC’s knowledge partner ForwardKeys, shows this hasn’t been matched by bookings.
On average during the week of 14 May, airline ticket sales from the UK to Greece and Spain fell 37 per cent and 44 per cent respectively week on week.
Data shows at the end of last month, there were more tickets being cancelled than new bookings being made, while British holidaymakers expressed disappointment over the UK government’s green list and expensive testing and quarantine requirements for travel to ‘amber’ list countries.
While ticket sales remain sluggish for the immediate future, indications are that there looks to be more positive news on the horizon with significantly more tickets recorded being sold for flights later this month and into July.
But WTTC concerns over the lack of inbound travellers to the UK is causing as much damage to the UK’s Travel & Tourism sector as has the collapse of outbound tourism to holiday hotspots around Europe and beyond.
WTTC has argued the UK should switch to a more risk-based approach and include more of those countries with a similar low infection rate, and with advanced vaccination rollouts, on the controversial ‘green list’. This should include the US, a move that could unlock transatlantic travel, which is critical to both economies.