I recently met the team at Meon Valley Travel of Petersfield, to talk about their Travel Trade Gazette award for Top Travel Agency in South East of England, and reflect on the impact of the pandemic.  

Meon Valley is a local travel agency and a leading travel management company with national clients.

It was encouraging to hear the real optimism of managing director James Beagrie about the future for the travel industry.

But there is no doubt travel and aviation have endured enormous disruption in the past year, and that impacts our local economy in East Hampshire.  

I know how important holidays are, and the opportunity to explore and spend time abroad is often a highlight of the year.

The recent Global Travel Taskforce report outlines a framework for how international travel could resume from May 17 based on a ‘traffic light’ system.

Key factors will include the percentage of population vaccinated, the infection rate, and Variants of Concern. 

Countries will be given a Green, Amber or Red label determining the level of restrictions and checks for people returning to the UK from them.  

Arrivals from Green countries will need to take a pre-departure test as well as a PCR test on or before day two of arriving back into the UK.

They will only need to quarantine if a test is positive.  

Amber will mean the same pre-departure test, plus PCR tests on days two and eight.

There will also be the need to self isolate for ten days on return.

But there will be an option to take a Test to Release on day five to end self isolation early.  

Red will require a 10 day stay in a managed quarantine hotel when you come back, in addition to the pre-departure and day two and eight PCR tests. 

In early May we should know what countries are in which categories from May 17.

A ‘Green Watchlist’ will also give advance warning of countries at most risk of moving from Green to Amber.

A formal review will take place on June 28, with further reviews planned for no later than July 31 and October 1.  

The issue of vaccine certification remains complex and sensitive.

And given the global extent of this virus there is a big difference in potential scale from pre-pandemic to now. 

There are different questions again about domestic use of vaccine certification.  

I had the opportunity to raise this directly with the Information Commissioner, who reinforced the need to understand degree of necessity, whether it was proportionate and how transparent its use would be.

 The pandemic has restricted our lives in a very fundamental way – the phrase “get away from it all” has perhaps never been so apt, even as we continue to fight what is a global scourge.