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Is it too late for the aviation and travel sectors to enter the Covid-19 'tent'?

Updated: Jun 29, 2021


Pressures on the aviation and travel industries to lobby governments for the restoration of international business and holiday travel are understandably huge. Sector leaders are projecting a somewhat bemused public appearance over the UK Government’s criteria and timeliness for the restoration of travel to popular destinations. This behaviour indicates that companies and their industry associations have failed to engage effectively with one of their most important stakeholders. This critical failure has placed industry outside the process and with limited ability to influence either country Covid risk assessment criteria or methodology. These companies do not appear to be trusted to be given confidential advanced notice of change; the circle of trust remains small.

Companies are working mostly in the dark trying to make their case. The attitude and key messages projected during broadcasted media interviews signals a total lack of recognition of the potential impact on host countries whose populations do not have the benefit of vaccination levels comparable to the UK. There is no recognition that despite testing regimes, double vaccinated travellers may still carry Covid-19 and infect others in host countries.

The UK travelling public are also desperate to holiday in the sunshine. The Government continues to make clear the possibility of sudden changes to country covid travel risk assessments and the potential need for self isolation or quarantine on return. Where travel is allowed and change is subsequently ordered, travellers are still responding with frustration and disbelief. The media are quick to broadcast the dismay of both travellers and the travel industry who are feeding off each other and increasing political pressure.

Perhaps contrary to popular belief, Governments do have a very difficult job to assess Covid travel safety overseas. The UK government should be transparent about the criteria used to assess Covid travel risk but it’s likely that it is a complex, multi factor, continuous learning process that requires country by country consideration. This is not helped by risk assessments of some foreign governments that appear to be heavily influenced by desperation for return of the tourist pound, perhaps even at the cost of the well being of their citizens. It is very likely that some of these countries will eventually 'wake up' to the threat presented by Covid's highly transmissible 'Delta' variant and place further restrictions on visiting Britons.

US President Lyndon Johnson said of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover on 31 October 1971 ‘it’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in’. As the travel industry is not within the circle of trust, as time passes, it must become increasingly difficult to share and justify these Covid travel risk assessments to those ‘outside the tent’.

Without application of common sense, joint recognition of all the issues and a willingness to work proactively with trust and integrity together, the spiral of doom will continue to tighten. Everybody stands to lose.

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