Since the UK Government announced a green list for international travel into England on Friday, travel operators and tourism stakeholders in Malta and abroad expressed disappointment about the “overly cautious” approach.
The long-awaited announcement means that travel abroad from 17th May will no longer be illegal.
Visitors to the 12 green list countries, including Portugal, Gibraltar, and Israel (but despite predictions, not Malta) will no longer be required to quarantine on return to England.
Airline executives have criticised the omission of several popular destinations, such as Malta, France, Greece, Italy and Spain.
Andrew Flintham, Managing Director of TUI, said: “While we were expecting to see just a handful of destinations on the green list, this is an overly cautious start”.
Similarly, Easyjet Chief Executive Johan Ludgren commented: “The decision to put so few European countries into the green tier is simply not justified by the data or the science, and is inconsistent with the approach to reopen the domestic economy”.
Locally, the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA), said it was surprised by the omission, considering that “objectively Malta is meeting the COVID-19 related safety requirements to the point that leading British media have for past days been quoting Malta to be a favourite destination to be included in the safe list”.
“MHRA concurs with the general opinion being expressed by the major British travel and tourism stakeholders that the decision to put so few European countries into the green tier is not justified by the data or the science”, it commented.
This situation will negatively impact the tourism sector in Malta, at least for June, the MHRA added, and, if not urgently addressed, then Malta’s tourism sector will lose what was seeming to be a good start to the summer season.
Also responding to the news, The Malta Chamber acknowledged the disappointment of the tourism industry and said that Malta is well ahead of other EU countries in respect of its COVID case numbers.
“This will ultimately determine not just how quickly [Malta] gets on the green list, but also [its] ability to remain there”, it said.
Making the announcement, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps described the easing of restrictions as “necessarily cautious”, due to the threat from new variants of COVID-19.
However, he reiterated that the list of countries on the travel list would be reviewed every three weeks by the Joint Biosecurity Centre.
Many in Malta had hoped that, given the country’s low case numbers and high vaccination rate – which in recent weeks overtook that of the UK – would see the country included in the green list.
Malta’s Government has targeted the UK for the launch of an aggressive advertising campaign aimed at bringing tourists to its shores from 1st June, when the island reopens to visitors.
The UK was placed on Malta’s amber list in April, meaning that British travellers are permitted to enter, with restrictions (a negative PCR test), similar to those required under the UK green list.
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