Portsmouth travel sector 'deflated' over government's travel list update with Brittany Ferries and Southampton Airport warning of 'tricky' times ahead

THE first review of the government’s travel traffic light list has been called ‘a kick in the teeth’ by members of Portsmouth’s travel sector, as even more destinations face restrictions.

Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 5:46 pm

The update to the Government’s traffic light list for international travel sees Portugal moved to the amber list – meaning those returning from the country will need to be tested and quarantine at home for up to 10 days.

Seven countries – including Sri Lanka and Egypt – have also been added to the red list, which requires those returning to quarantine in a specified hotel.

All changes to the lists will come into effect at 4am on Tuesday, June 8.

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MV Cap Finistère operated by Brittany Ferries, which has been left 'disappointed' by the government's first review of international travel restrictions.

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The announcement led to ‘a collective sigh of disappointment and resignation’ on both sides of the channel for customers and staff of Brittany Ferries which runs services from Portsmouth to French and Spanish ports.

Speaking to The News, a spokesman from the ferry firm said: ‘We are disappointed that Spain has not been added to the green list. All the data points to it being a country that is safe, with the rapid roll vaccination rates and the low infection rates.

‘We are relieved that we didn’t open our proposed route to Portugal – that was a fifty-fifty decision a few weeks ago.’

Brittany Ferries remains hopeful that Spain and France will be added to the green list at the next review in three weeks time – but the company will face ‘tricky’ decisions if there is no change.

The spokesman said: ‘The company will limp through to 2022 - but it may look like a very different Brittany Ferries.

‘Last season was catastrophic. The reality is we need a good summer season.

‘If we don’t get a summer season this year, things are going to be tricky for us, and we may have to make very difficult decisions.’

The company has taken more than £100 million in emergency loans from banks and the French government in order to shore up its business, with crossings cut by more than 30 percent due to plummeting passenger numbers.

The update is a ‘kick in the teeth’ for the travel industry, according to independent travel agent Zoe Harmer, based in Southsea.

She said: ‘The whole industry feels deflated. We seem to be forgotten about.

‘It is a kick in the teeth if no countries are added to the green list. Places like Menorca and Malta have really low rates. Some of the Spanish islands, the rates are so low.

‘It sounds like they have pretty much decided that they don’t want anybody to go abroad and they want everyone to have a staycation.

‘It seems crazy that more countries have not been added to the green list.’

International visitors provide more than £40m to the city’s economy every year, with more than 130,000 foreign tourists staying in the city before the Covid-19 pandemic.

A spokesman for AGS Airports Ltd, which owns Southampton Airport, said: ‘We fully appreciate that public health must always come first, however, it will be disappointing for our passengers that no further countries will join the small number of destinations included in the green list following this first review.

‘Within two weeks of the safe restart commencing Portugal is now an amber-list country and passengers who have flown there recently, or are due to, will now need to quarantine at home for 10 days on top of the testing costs required in order to travel.

‘The red, amber and green list system was designed to address the confusion of last year where a country was deemed safe for non-essential travel and then back on the quarantine list within a matter of days.

‘The continued uncertainty associated with international travel will not only seriously damage passenger confidence, which is already extremely fragile, it will also put the aviation industry and the hundreds of thousands of jobs associated with it at real risk.

‘People will chose not to fly due to the uncertainty involved and airlines will find it impossible to operate in such unpredictable conditions.’

In 2019 Southampton Airport had three departures a week to Faro in Portugal on Flybe (April-September) carrying 15,000 passengers a year.

So far this year, compared, to 2019, passengers are 96.5 per cent down - although the Flybe collapse had already affected passenger numbers at Southampton.

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