Independent travel agent's delight at 'extremely positive' amber list changes

Bridget Keevil, owner of Travel Stop travel agency. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Bridget Keevil said she was delighted with the news - Credit: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The owner of an independent travel agency in Suffolk has said she is thrilled with the "extremely positive" announcement that the government's amber list will be scrapped. 

Bridget Keevil - owner of Travel Stop, which has branches in Elmswell, Hadleigh, Claydon, and Buntingford, Hertfordshire - said she "could have cried" after hearing the news. 

Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced on Friday that countries will be placed on one of two lists - a red list and 'the rest of the world' - from October 4.

From the end of October, fully vaccinated travellers returning from non-red list countries will also be able to take cheaper lateral flow Covid tests, instead of PCR tests.

In addition, they will no longer need to take pre-departure tests.

Mrs Keevil said the past 18 months had been "horrendous" and the company, which has lost "hundreds of thousands of pounds". 

"It's extremely positive," she said of the announcement. 

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"I could have cried when I heard that. It's been a long time coming.

"I think in the coming weeks, it will give those who are on the edge of travelling or not travelling a little bit more confidence to go. 

"Turkey coming off the red list is a fairly important destination for late summer sun and that has now opened up so that is really good news. 

"There still is a long way to go and the government could have gone a lot further.

"But I think they have got to be seen to be cautious and if they opened everything at once perhaps they would have a backlash of people saying they've gone too far. 

"So I think it's a very good compromise between doing what they should have done many weeks ago and going too far now.

"Hopefully between now and the end of the year, everything will open up a lot more."

Mrs Keevil added that the past 18 months have sucked the life out of the normally "joyous" experience of booking holidays for people. 

"It has been horrendous. I never want to live through those 18 months again," she said.  

"It has been heart-breaking. My business is 30 years old this year and for the first time ever, I have not looked forward to going to work. 

"I have been mentally and physically exhausted - not through booking holidays, but just having the constant stream of people who want to go.

"They book, but then you've got to cancel and change and explain to people why they can't have their money back if it's on a green list and they've decided they really don't want to travel now. 

"Normally travel is so joyous but over the past 18 months it's been horrible."

Charlie Cornish, chief executive of MAG, has slammed the government's approach to his industry durin

Charlie Cornish, chief executive of MAG, has slammed the government's approach to his industry during the pandemic Picture: MAG - Credit: Archant

Charlie Cornish, chief executive of Manchester Airports Group, which operates Stansted Airport in Essex, said the changes will encourage more people to book.

However, he said that the industry's recovery will be held back while vaccinated travellers still have to pay for tests. 

“The simplification of the UK’s international travel system, including doing away with pre-departure tests and switching to lateral flow on arrival, will make it easier and cheaper for people to travel abroad," he said. 

“For too long, the recovery of UK aviation has lagged behind the rest of Europe.

"The changes announced today will help to close that gap by encouraging more people to book foreign travel.

“But for as long as vaccinated travellers have to pay for tests, the recovery of one of the UK’s major industries will be held back.

“The government must now find a way to give people back the freedom to travel without the barrier of testing.”