The Report of the Global Travel Taskforce has been published, outlining the UK Government’s recommendations for the safe return of international travel. As has been well publicised, this will rely on a “traffic light” country system to which different restrictions are applied depending on risk. For those countries on the green list, travellers will not be required to self-isolate on arrival to the UK, but instead submit to pre- and post-departure PCR testing (on or before day two of their arrival). For countries on the amber list, travellers will be required to submit to the same testing but will also be required to self-isolate. Travellers from amber list countries will be able to take advantage of the “test to release” scheme (on day five). Similar to the current rules, travellers from a red-list country will be required to enter managed quarantine at a hotel for a period of 10 days, as well as testing (but will not be able to use the “test to release” scheme).

There’s also a renewed focus on the Passenger Locator Form, with all travellers required to complete one and one of the recommendations being to develop automatic validation of the Passenger Locator Form so that it cannot be submitted unless the traveller can show that they have fulfilled the requirements, with full e-gates integration of the Passenger Locator Form by Autumn 2021 (Summer 2021 for bigger airports) to reduce the requirement for lengthy manual checks at the border.

At the time of writing, the parameters for the green/amber lists are not required (although a red list is already in operation). However, to help travellers’ book international travel with more confidence, the Taskforce has recommended a “Green Watchlist” which will help travellers (and businesses operating in the travel sector) identify those countries at risk of moving from green to amber.

Is additional consumer protection legislation on the way?

The Taskforce has also made recommendations around customer clarity and consumer confidence. This includes a new COVID-19 charter for travellers setting out consumer rights and responsibilities when booking travel while COVID-19 measures remain in place. Something of particular interest is the Taskforce’s comments that they expect the industry to “be flexible” in recognition of the impact the pandemic has on consumers’ bookings. The Taskforce also states that the UK government will put further measures in place to ensure, wherever possible, consumer monies are safe in case bookings are cancelled due to COVID-19 measures.

It will be interesting to see what further information is provided around these points, and, whether the Taskforce would recommend the implementation of additional legislation to protect consumer rights in these circumstances and if so, what this means for the travel industry in terms of legal considerations. It also remains to be seen whether any such additional obligations around protecting consumer monies in the event of cancellation will fall on the industry (and if so, which parts of the industry), or whether the government will step in with a guarantee fund of some kind. It’s worth noting that legislation linked to the pandemic has been implemented at lightning speed compared to normal times, and so these changes could come quickly.

We’ll continue to keep our clients updated with further insights and analysis as developments occur.