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    WTTC repeats call for traffic light system to be scrapped

    The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has repeated its call on the UK government to finally bring an end to the “widely discredited” travel traffic light system.
    The call comes after the latest update which saw just seven countries added to the green list, with Thailand, a popular winter sun destination for holiday starved Brits, and Montenegro, added to the red list.
    Turkey, widely expected to be able to welcome British visitors stayed in no-go red, seriously damaging its travel sector.
    WTTC says both consumers and tourism businesses have lost confidence in the system.
    It condemns the endless chopping and changing of countries that causes confusion, and only benefits an unregulated market of costly test suppliers, the body said.ADVERTISEMENTThe global tourism body says planning for most businesses – and holidaymakers – had been rendered next to impossible by the 51st change announced today.
    WTTC says the time has come to ditch these disruptive updates completely and allow all those fully vaccinated to travel freely once more – unless travelling to a red-list country.
    Travel should be allowed with testing – for the unvaccinated – to ensure those who are unable to get vaccinated are not discriminated against.
    PCRs should be replaced with the more affordable antigen tests.
    However, if the UK government continues to insist on costly and unnecessary PCR tests, it should bear the cost instead of passing it on to consumers, which deters Britons from travelling.
    Costly testing is putting travel out of the reach of hard-working families and returning it to the preserve of the wealthy.
    Julia Simpson, WTTC chief executive, said: “The traffic light system is widely discredited. It puts the UK at a disadvantage and is squandering the vaccine dividend.
    “This is the 51st change in a baffling array of travel bans. Holidaymakers are confused and frustrated.
    The UK government is seriously damaging the tourism sector which in turn supports thousands of businesses and jobs.
    “The UK government appears to have no exit plan.
    “The Global Travel Taskforce, set up to oversee these haphazard travel restrictions must set out a clear strategy to recover normal travel.
    “Nowhere should be off limits to anyone in the UK who is fully vaccinated, except in exceptional circumstances.”

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    WTTC calls on USA to approve AstraZeneca vaccine

    The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) is calling upon the US government to urgently speed up approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine to help restore vital transatlantic travel.
    The Centre for Disease Control (CDC), the main health authority in the US, this week approved the Pfizer vaccine.
    However, it still does not currently recognise AstraZeneca as an approved Covid-19 vaccine.
    Even if the Biden Administration allows borders to reopen, the non-recognition of AstraZeneca will be a significant barrier to transatlantic travel between the UK and the US, the WTTC said.
    America will effectively remain off-limits to the majority of Brits – and many millions more around the world – who are vaccinated with the AstraZeneca drug.ADVERTISEMENTAstraZeneca has the largest global reach of all current vaccines and has currently been administered across 176 countries and territories, highlighting the importance of its approval in the US.
    WTTC says CDC non-recognition will continue to seriously depress consumer demand and prevent any meaningful revival of transatlantic travel from the UK to the US.
    It will also continue the serious knock-on effects throughout the tourism sector on both sides of the Atlantic.
    United States carrier JetBlue recently launched its first transatlantic flights from New York to London, while Aer Lingus, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and American Airlines are all due to add new routes or extra capacity to cater to increased demand from the US to the UK.
    Virginia Messina, WTTC senior vice president, said: “It’s crucial the US authorities step forward to formally approve the AstraZeneca vaccine as a matter of urgency to enable cross-border mobility and the return of transatlantic travel between the UK and US.
    “Unless they give it the green light then the US will effectively remain closed to the vast majority of UK visitors and the many millions around the world who are double-jabbed with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
    “This will leave airlines, cruise lines, tour operators, hotels and the entire tourism infrastructure, which depends upon transatlantic travel, in significant trouble for the foreseeable future.”
    WTTC warns that the current CDC approval process could take months to give AstraZeneca the all clear.

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    Kew Gardens tops England visitor attraction list

    The Annual Visitor Attractions Survey from VisitEngland shows the severe impact on visitor attractions from the Covid-19 pandemic.
    Released today, the study shows with a 65 per cent drop in visitors overall compared to 2019 and a 55 per cent decline in revenue.
    These declines were driven by site closures associated with lockdowns and opening restrictions and the significant contraction of inbound and domestic tourism in 2020.
    The fall in visitor numbers last year to England’s attractions was most marked for museums and galleries, other historic properties and places of worship, many of which rely on overseas visitors.
    Outdoor attractions such as country parks, wildlife attractions/zoos and gardens showed the smallest decreases.
    Overall rural attractions fared best last year with admissions dropping by 47 per cent compared to a 74 per cent decline for urban.
    Indoor attractions saw a larger decline in admissions in 2020 than outdoor with decreases of 76 per cent and 43 per cent respectively, partly due to lockdown restrictions delaying their reopening but also people being more reluctant to visit indoor attractions.ADVERTISEMENTRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew, was the most visited paid for attraction in England last year with 1.2 million visitors, the first time a garden has taken the top spot, although numbers were still down almost half on 2019, followed by Chester Zoo and RHS Garden Wisley.
    The Tower of London, which had ranked first since 2009, saw an 85 per cent decrease from 3 million visitors in 2019 to 448,000 in 2020, dropping to tenth place.
    Topping the list of free attractions in England was the Tate Modern with 1.4 million visitors, a 77 per cent drop on 2019, followed by the Natural History Museum with 1.3 million, a 76 per cent drop, and the British Museum 1.28 million, an 80 per cent drop.
    Tourism minister, Nigel Huddleston, said: “I know what a challenging year it’s been for our brilliant tourism, leisure and hospitality sectors.
    “Tourism is one of our country’s greatest assets, driving our economy and delivering jobs across our communities.”
    The survey, which gathered information from 1,301 English attractions, also showed the impact from the absence of international visitors in 2020 with a drop of 93 per cent in overseas visitor numbers.
    Image: Philippe Gras

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    Qatar Tourism signs new CLIA partnership

    Qatar Tourism and Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) UK & Ireland have announced a new partnership.
    The deal is designed to enhance brand awareness of the country across the region and with wider community of cruise lines, travel agents and stakeholders.
    As part of the partnership, Qatar Tourism will be one of the main headline sponsors of the CLIA Selling Cruise Day on November 4th in Southampton and will also sponsor the annual CLIA Cruise Forum in December 2021.
    An extensive tourism development is under way in Qatar as the country works to diversify and build upon its offerings and broaden its appeal for visitors ahead of and beyond the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and achieve its long-term goal of becoming a world-class destination and welcome more than six million visitors a year by 2030.
    As of July, Qatar re-opened its borders to fully vaccinated international travellers by vaccines approved for use by the ministry of public health. ADVERTISEMENTAndy Harmer, CLIA UK & Ireland managing director, said: “We’re very excited to welcome Qatar Tourism to the CLIA family.
    “Their support for the trade is a clear indication they are looking to build positive cruise momentum.
    “The region was proving increasingly popular with cruisers and we’re all looking forward to seeing ships start visiting the exceptional facilities of the Doha port and its surroundings again.”
    In 2019/2020, Qatar welcomed 207,000 cruise visitors to Doha.
    With the Doha port undergoing a multi-million-pound refurbishment recently, the destination has set its sights on meeting and exceeding this number moving forward in the 2021/2022 season, starting November.

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    ABTA launches new direct debit system

    ABTA will launch a replacement version of its Single Payment System to members later this year.
    The technology has been developed by Travel Ledger.
    The direct debit system allows fast online payments between travel agents and tour operators. 
    Transactions are consolidated by the payment scheme, so that each week only a single payment is made in or out of each member’s bank account.
    Under the new, more efficient scheme ABTA members will have control over their payments, not only who they transact with, but also by facilitating deposit and balance payments from travel agents to tour operators, and refunds from operators to agents.ADVERTISEMENTOver time, members who join the scheme will have the opportunity to process payments more frequently with the potential for more than the one cycle per week that the current scheme allows.
    After evaluating multiple systems, ABTA chose to partner with Travel Ledger because of its technology knowhow and understanding of the travel industry. 
    The new system has been tested by ABTA member focus groups over the last few months, allowing Members to review and refine the scheme and ensure it works for their requirements.
    It will use the same process as on the older platform, to avoid disruption to existing users’ back-office functions.
    John de Vial, special adviser at ABTA, said: “The new scheme will use the latest technology to allow fast, accurate and secure consolidated payments and refunds.
    “We’re confident that it will greatly support users’ businesses and make payments easier.”
    Travel Ledger is an electronic invoice and remittance system which is connected to UK and European banking for easy and secure payments between travel buyers and suppliers, providing secure transaction processing and reconciliation.
    Once live, Travel Ledger will provide user and technical support to ABTA Members, who will be able to review their own data, as well as identify potential problems with transactions in advance, before payments are authorised or transactions fail – making the system more risk-free for all parties.
    Travel Ledger founder, Roberto De Ra, added: “Having tested the Travel Ledger system successfully with a large focus group of ABTA members, we’re delighted to offer the system across the entire ABTA membership in the coming weeks and look forward to fruitful collaboration with them.”
    ABTA members in 2019 settled more than 600,000 bookings to the value of more than £900 million.

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    WTTC calls for further reopening of UK travel

    The World Travel & Tourism Council has called for the UK government to further lift restrictions on international travel in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
    While acknowledging changes coming into effect this week in England are a significant step forward, the body said more needs to be done.
    Virginia Messina, WTTC senior vice president, said: “We should reflect on how hard won our newly re-found ‘freedoms’ are, which have been curbed for the best part of 18 months as together we have fought against the pandemic – at huge social, economic and personal cost.
    “We know it will come as a sigh of relief that our lives are beginning to return to normal, albeit with mask-wearing where appropriate, to continue prioritising public safety.
    “However, while the domestic holiday market is reaping the benefits of ‘Freedom Day’, with staycations booming, we are not out of the woods yet.”ADVERTISEMENTFollowing the loosening of restrictions companies, including Jet2, have begun to offer trips to amber list countries.
    However, more needs to be done, Messina argued.
    She added: “International travel remains either off limits or frustratingly difficult for many.
    “This means the door to significant overseas travel still remains effectively closed, especially following the new ‘amber list-plus status’ for France which caused such chaos last week.
    “We need international travel; economically, socially and emotionally.
    “Our pent-up desire to travel remains undimmed, and we must take advantage of the hugely successful vaccine rollout to safely resume it.
    “We hope the UK government will extend these revived domestic ‘freedoms’ to include the freedom to travel safely internationally, so we can reconnect with the world and harness all the benefits that it brings to us as individuals, and collectively to the tourism sector and the country.”

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    WTTC report lays bare cost of Covid-19 to travel sector

    Asia Pacific was the region hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic according to the new annual Economic Trends Report from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
    The report reveals the full dramatic impact of travel restrictions designed to curb Covid-19 on the global economy, individual regions and its job losses worldwide.
    Asia-Pacific was the worst performing region, with the sector’s contribution to GDP dropping a damaging 54 per cent, compared to the global fall of 49 per cent.
    International visitor spending was particularly hard hit across Asia Pacific, falling by 74 per cent, as many countries across the region closed their borders to inbound tourists.
    Domestic spending witnessed a lower but equally punishing decline of 48 per cent. ADVERTISEMENTTourism employment in the region fell by 18 per cent, equating to a shocking 34 million jobs.
    Virginia Messina, WTTC senior vice president, said: “WTTC data has laid bare the devastating impact the pandemic has had on tourism around the world, leaving economies battered, millions without jobs and many more fearing for their future.
    “Our annual Economic Trends Report shows just how much each region has suffered at the hands of the crushing travel restrictions brought in to control the spread of Covid-19.
    “WTTC believes governments around the world should take advantage of their vaccine rollouts, which could significantly ease travel restrictions on travel, and help power the wider global economic recovery.”
    The report also revealed the European tourism sector suffered the second biggest economic collapse last year, dropping 51 per cent, or €987 billion.
    This significant and damaging decline was in part due to continuing mobility restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.
    The report showed domestic spending in Europe declined by 48 per cent, offset by some intra-regional travel, however international spending fell at an even sharper rate, by 64 per cent.
    Despite this, Europe remained the top global region for international visitor spending.
    More Information
    To read the WTTC Economic Trends Report in full, please click here.

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    UNWTO urges governments to restart international tourism

    The global vaccination rollout and increased adoption of digital solutions for safe travel should lead to a rise in international mobility over the weeks and months ahead.
    That is according to the latest data from the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
    According to the newest edition of the Travel Restrictions Report from agency, as of June, 29 per cent of all destinations worldwide have their borders completely closed to international tourism.
    Of these, more than half have been completely closed to tourists for since May 2020 or longer, with the majority of these belonging to the small island development states of Asia and the Pacific.
    In comparison, just three destinations (Albania, Costa Rica and Dominican Republic) are completely open to tourists, with no restrictions now in place.ADVERTISEMENTOne in three of all destinations are partially closed, and 36 per cent request a negative Covid-19 test result upon arrival, in some cases in combination with a requirement to quarantine.
    The data confirms the trend towards destinations adopting more nuanced, evidence-and-risk-based approaches to restrictions on travel, particularly in light of the evolving epidemiological situation and the emergence of new variants of the virus.
    Indeed, 42 per cent of all destinations have introduced specific restrictions for visitors from destinations with variants of concern ranging from the suspension of flights and closing of borders to compulsory quarantine.
    Additionally, since most of those destinations with the strictest measures have some of the lowest rates of vaccination, the data also indicates a link between vaccination speed and easing of restrictions.
    In comparison, those destinations that have higher rates of vaccination and where countries are able to work together on harmonised rules and protocols such as those being employed in the Schengen area of the European Union, are better-placed to allow tourism to slowly return.
    “Governments are instrumental for the restart and recovery of tourism through collaboration, use of data and digital solutions,” said UNWTO secretary general Zurab Pololikashvili.
    Regional differences with regards to travel restrictions remain.
    Some 70 per cent of all destinations in Asia and the Pacific are completely closed, compared with just 13 per cent in Europe, as well as 20 per cent in the Americas, 19 per cent in Africa and 31 per cent in the Middle East.
    The report indicates that the restart of global tourism will remain muted so long as governments continue to advise caution.
    Four of the ten top source markets keep advising their citizens against non-essential travel abroad (these four generated 25 per cent of all international arrivals in 2018).

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