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Seven in ten travel agencies plan to cut staff once the UK’s job retention program ends, the industry body found, prompting the association to urge the government to review its testing requirements for those arriving in England.

The Travel Association, or Abta, the trade body that represents tour operators and travel agents in the UK, said new international summer holiday bookings for this year were down 83% from levels before the pandemic. Meanwhile, 58% of bookings with departure dates in July or August this year had to be postponed or canceled.

Almost half of UK travel agencies reported no increase in bookings in 2021 compared to last year, despite the success of the country’s vaccination program, Abta said, citing details of its members. The UK has vaccinated more than 80% of its eligible UK adults against Covid-19.

Figures released Tuesday show that 69% of travel companies with staff on leave plan to make further layoffs once the government program ends this month. This is expected to bring job losses to nearly 100,000 in the overseas travel industry, and more than 226,000 when supply chains are factored in.

“Government travel requirements have stifled the travel trade this summer,” said Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer. He “needs to realize the damage his policies are causing to the UK travel industry and the impact they will have on the wider economic recovery.”

Fully trapped EU citizens were able to travel to the continent without the need for testing for months, unlike the expensive and complicated arrangements that have been enforced in the UK.

The government is due to review international travel requirements by Oct. 1, while its leave program that has helped protect many jobs is due to end this month.

Abta urged the government to ditch its three-tier system for an easier way to treat all destinations as open by default, keeping a short redlist to handle known variants of concern.

He called on the government to drop its requirements for fully vaccinated travelers to the UK to take a PCR test, which is currently mandatory for anyone entering England from abroad, even from low-risk countries.



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