MPs call to expand green list or it could cost UK £19bn

‘Expand green list or cost UK £19bn’: MPs call for more countries to be added to register of ‘safe’ travel destinations to boost economy as we move out of Covid lockdown

  • Study group predicts international tourism revenue will plummet to just £1.1bn
  • It pales in comparison to the £20.2bn pre-pandemic for June, July and August
  • It comes as just 12 destinations were ranked green on the travel list last week 

The UK economy will take a £19billion hit unless the ‘green list’ of countries for quarantine-free travel is expanded, MPs have warned.

A study by a cross-party group predicts revenues from international tourism will plummet to just £1.1billion this summer against £20.2billion pre-pandemic for June, July and August.

Just 12 destinations were ranked green when the list was unveiled on Friday.

The projection is based on outbound and inbound traveller figures to the green countries – which accounted for just 5.5 per cent of passengers in 2019. 

The estimate of the damage may be conservative as such destinations include Australia and New Zealand, which have very strict entry measures or blanket bans on UK tourists.

Portugal and Gibraltar were the only European hotspots to go green. This week the Mail revealed the grounding of planes has blown a £3billion hole in Treasury coffers after the collapse in air passenger duty revenues due to the pandemic.

Boris Johnson (pictured) is being urged by MPs to add more countries to the green list

The new study, by the Future of Aviation Group of MPs, renewed calls last night for more countries to be added to the green list to allow quarantine-free travel in time for the summer.

Tory MP Henry Smith, the group’s chairman, said: ‘Without a safe and fuller restart of international travel our economic recovery will have its brakes on and many businesses that have run on empty will be left in a desperate battle for survival. It is vital that the Government use the first review point to bring forward a fuller list of safe green list countries.’ Joss Croft, head of trade body UKinbound, said: ‘The hopes of a summer revival for inbound tourism, which sustains over 500,000 jobs, are looking bleak, especially with such a small number of countries on the green list.’

Outbound travel in June, July and August 2019 generated a total of around £11.7billion towards the UK economy while inbound was responsible for about £8.5billion.

Heathrow airport chief John Holland-Kaye said: ‘The Government’s green list is very welcome, but they need to expand it massively in the next few weeks to include other low-risk markets such as the United States.’

In a joint letter yesterday to Boris Johnson and US president Joe Biden, with the boss of Philadelphia International Airport Chellie Cameron, the pair urged the leaders to create a ‘travel corridor’, letting vaccinated passengers move between both countries without the need for testing or quarantine.

The US is currently on the UK’s amber list and British holidaymakers are banned from visiting. The list of red, amber and green countries will be reviewed every three weeks after foreign leisure travel becomes legal again on Monday.

The projection is based on outbound and inbound traveller figures to the green countries – which accounted for just 5.5 per cent of passengers in 2019

The projection is based on outbound and inbound traveller figures to the green countries – which accounted for just 5.5 per cent of passengers in 2019

However, the Health Secretary yesterday dampened hopes of a ‘big bang’ of countries being added to the green list next month.

Matt Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there were ‘reasons to take a cautious approach at the border’, such as stemming the import of so-called variants of concern to protect the vaccination programme.

He also confirmed that fully vaccinated people will be able to prove their inoculation status by using an NHS app from Monday.

It will prove useful for travellers to the Continent this summer, with the European Union last week announcing plans to allow fully vaccinated UK visitors to sidestep testing and quarantine requirements. There were reports yesterday that only a limited number of destinations may be added to the green list during June, with no big reopening to traditional destinations in Europe likely until at least July.

The British Virgin Islands and some Caribbean destinations are in contention, along with Malta.

A Whitehall source stressed it was pointless trying to ‘guess’ which countries will be added three weeks before the first review is due.

Countries have been ranked red, amber or green based on their vaccination and infection rates and ability to contain new variants.

  • A single-decker bus has been converted into a vaccine centre to combat a surge in cases in Bolton. The infection rate in the town is 133.5 cases per 100,000 people – the second highest in the UK.