Simon Calder, travel editor at The Independent, former presenter of the BBC2 Travel Show and considered “the voice of tourism” by leading news and consumer publications and TV news channels, told the Bulletin on Friday night, after speaking to the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, that the British government is killing the country’s travel industry and slammed it for being a total shambles and a disgrace.
Simon has been extremely vocal about the new quarantine scheme in the UK and strongly believes that the government is being politically driven in making its decisions to cover up for Dominic Cummings and its numerous other poor policies, which he says are doing more harm than good.
“Within hours of the Cummings breaking lockdown rules story breaking, the government decided to introduce quarantine to divert the public’s attention. It worked initially and it polled well, but the penny eventually dropped and the country began to realise that any holiday plans had to be either postponed or cancelled, and still the government is failing to come out with any clear guidelines as to what happens next.
“All Shapps could tell me is that an announcement regarding quarantine and air corridors will be made on 29 June, but he was unable to give any clear indication as to what the announcement will be. Probably because neither he nor the rest of the cabinet have any idea what to do next. All this does is cause further damage to what was once the best travel industry in the world and leaves those intent on taking an overseas holiday in limbo. As far as I can make out, some 45 per cent of people are planning a foreign holiday, with Spain and the Balearics top of the list as always. But they have not got a clue whether to book or not. And when is the UK going to start flying?
“The legal action taken by the airlines will go nowhere with this government, but I think Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary might catch Downing Street out and force the government’s hand. He’s ready to take to the air on July 1 and there is a growing number of people willing to flaunt whatever rules and regulations the government might dream up over the next few weeks and travel. And if that happens the government will have to have a major rethink. If I was a betting man, I’d put my money on Ryanair going for and getting on with it; O’Leary, being in Ireland, can call it as it is and I think he will.
“And once the British get down to Majorca, they’ll remember just how lovely and wonderful the island is.
“Obviously there are many questions about holiday insurance and there’s the problem with passports. Suddenly thousands of people have realised their passport is out of date, but the passport office is still closed. So what are they supposed to do? Has the government put any kind of scheme in place to assist them? No.
“While the rest of Europe is coming out of lockdown, Britain is going deeper into it and there are no valid grounds. It’s pure politicking. As I said last week, there are all kinds of oddities concerning quarantine rules. The mere fact that you step off an aircraft, you’re presumed by the new law to be carrying COVID-19, even if you’ve come from a really safe country, but are then immediately allowed to get on to public transport. The only way you can actually get the 14 days shorter is by leaving the country again, which of course would go against the current Foreign Office advice.
“Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, when she brought this in, said that it was backed by the public; it was guided by science and it would make us all safe.”
But Simon claims he has seen evidence to the contrary.
“I’m afraid there’s actually an analysis which shows that it will increase the number of cases of coronavirus in the UK and be counterproductive.” The Independent’s analysis has shown that this is because the policy is effectively preventing healthy British travellers going abroad, where they are less likely to be infected.
“Right now, Britons would be safer spending two weeks in Majorca or elsewhere in Spain than in the UK. It’s a total mess and it’s all down to constant government interfering. The sensible Tory backbenchers have been silenced while a few people with very little proper experience continue to make a lot of noise and millions of people are losing their jobs, businesses are going to the wall and the public are trapped when it comes to going on holiday. It’s total nonsense and makes no sense whatsoever.
“And we’ve got Brexit just around the corner, which will only make matters worse. This is the most incompetent government the country has had for decades, if not ever, and in a few years’ time we’ll look back at the massive disaster which is being made. It’s not just foreign travel that’s being destroyed, the domestic market has been crippled as well. It is not as if the government is trying to boost staycations as part of a drive to revive the economy; quite the opposite. At a time when London’s five-star hotels would normally be full of big-spending Arabs, Americans, South Americans or Russians, they’re closed, as are the pubs. The hostelry sector has been brought to its knees, not to mention the airlines and travel industry in general.
“It’s all down to a tactic to divert the public’s attention from the real issues; care home deaths is another example. There is no road map and as a result the country is lost. There’s now talk about Scotland closing its border with England to keep COVID infections down; it’s farcical, shameful. Even the Brexiteers are being punished, they can’t go on holiday either. But they wanted their cake and eat it so they are now paying for voting to leave the EU. They voted to be better off but were lied to and the lies keep on coming.
“What Britain needs now, or as soon as possible, is a moderate Labour government which can reopen sensible negotiations with the European Union otherwise Britain will be struggling for decades.
“And with regard to tourism in the short to mid-term, unless someone takes the initiative and gets a grip on things, it’s heading for destruction. I can’t help but think about all those people, second home owners, I see every November at Palma airport. Right now they can’t get out to properties they own or even their yachts and I wonder will they bother this year.
“There are a few cruise ships leaving Germany and sailing up to Denmark, but that’s not very exciting. Apart from the growing anti-cruise movement, getting the cruise industry afloat again in top destinations like the Med is going to be extremely challenging.
“Long haul is also going to take a hit. With all the talk about a second wave of the virus I can’t see many people travelling too far from home, and that is where Spain and the Balearics come in. Should a traveller get caught in another crisis situation, you’re only a couple of hours away from the UK.
“Majorca is a destination millions of Britons love so much. They feel safe there, it’s familiar, and it’s these kinds of destinations, short haul, which are going to benefit. But Majorca’s going to have to get its pricing right because there’s more competition out there. However, it’s been a home from home for Britons for decades and always will be. We just need this government to stop fooling around, come clean and let Britons start travelling again as soon as possible. It’s a sad time for us all. We need some clarity.”