Suffolk to welcome double-jabbed EU and US tourists, but some concerns persist
- Credit: Valerie Rozier
Suffolk looks set to welcome double-jabbed visitors from the EU and the US as government rules change, but some worries persist.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that the new rules will be in place from 4am on Monday August 2.
Currently, only travellers who have received two doses of a vaccine in the UK are permitted to enter from an amber country – such as the US and most of the EU – without self-isolating for 10 days, except those returning from France.
But ministers have decided to extend the exemption to those vaccinated in the US and the EU.
Andy Wood, chairman of Visit East of England, said: "I think it's important to get international visitors coming back to England, because international visitors so far this year are only 22% of what they were in 2019.
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"But more importantly, I think it does begin to say that the world is starting to gradually edge back to some normality.
"I don't think it comes with a risk. I think the efficacy of the vaccines for the people who are double-jabbed seems to be outstanding — it's better than the scientists could have dreamt of.
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"It's not as though they're coming in flu season. And already we've already seen cases of Covid fall. So given that backdrop, I think the risks are quite small."
According to data from Visit Britain, between 2009 and 2019 an average of 211,947 overseas visitors came to Suffolk per year.
In 2019, the average overseas visitor spent £355 in the county, bringing their contribution to Suffolk's economy in that year to £51.81million.
"We won't get back to the heady days of 2019 this year," cautioned Mr Wood.
According to Mark Cordell, chief executive of Bury St Edmunds BID, the West Suffolk town attracts "a fairly good proportion" of overseas visitors, including people from the US due to the nearby American airbases.
He said: "From my point of view we need to be satisfied the documentation proving the two jabs is foolproof and can't be forged. But providing it is this seems to me to be quite a sensible decision really."
"I think it's a positive move and a further return to normality and of benefit to our businesses, but if those security guarantees can't be given then it's a bit of an unnecessary risk in my view."
Mr Cordell said he has daughter living in the United States
He said she had to pay "a lot of money" to be tested before she came to visit the UK as well as paying for more tests once in the UK as well as paying to quarantine in a hotel.
"It did just seem a bit ridiculous as she had had her two Pfizer jabs," he said.
David Beavan, a Liberal Democrat councillor for Southwold, who has in the past been outspoken against tourists during the pandemic, said it was "difficult".
"There are risks, but if we're going to open up then we need to do it now," he said. "We should err on the side of caution but I understand the need for people to enjoy themselves."
But Bridget Keevil, owner of Travel Stop, an independent travel agents with branches in Elmswell, Claydon and Hadleigh, said the decision could make an already busy domestic tourism market busier still.
She said: "It's a bit of a kick in the teeth to travel agents like me. Why are they not allowing our fully vaccinated people to go the other way? It doesn't seem to make any sense to me.
"There seems to have been a lot of knee jerk reactions and policies that have been put in place without any joined up thinking."