The World Travel and Tourism Council is calling for the introduction of a pilot scheme involving airport-based testing, followed by a second test just days later, for travel between the financial hubs of London and New York, with the aim of re-starting business travel.

The organisation says the restoration of “air corridors” between the world’s top financial centres are vital to reviving international business travel and help kick-start the global economic recovery. 

WTTC, which represents the global Travel & Tourism private sector, says it is crucial that international business travel resumes, following its near collapse due to the coronavirus pandemic.

An analysis of Public Health England’s data by WTTC suggests two tests in quick succession could be 80% effective in identifying passengers with COVID-19, and thus reduce the quarantine period from 14 to four to six days or no quarantine at all.

Each year, inbound international business travel accounts for more than US$272 (£215) billion in the UK. While leisure travel makes up the bulk of international Travel & Tourism spend (83.77%) (inbound), international business travel (at 16.23%) is relied upon heavily by many international airlines, which depend upon frequent flying business travellers, especially on highly competitive routes across the Atlantic, for their profits.

The restoration of international business travel across the Atlantic could, says WTTC, benefit the entire Travel & Tourism sector; from airlines and hotels to travel management companies and ground transport providers, reviving tens of thousands of jobs and a multitude of companies which depend upon business travel for their survival.

However, WTTC warns this will only happen if the UK government takes a targeted approach, ditching blunt country-wide quarantines which have a devastating economic impact.

Gloria Guevara, WTTC President & CEO (pictured above), said: “While the recent ‘island policy’ introduced by the UK government marks a step in the right direction with a more targeted approach, WTTC believes a laser-like focus is necessary to reopen key international business routes, which could provide a significant economic boost. Flights must be restored along ‘city corridors’ linking cities with similar low COVID-19 case numbers, such as between London and New York, Washington, Paris, Frankfurt, Dubai, Amsterdam, Hong Kong and Shanghai. Every time the UK government places another destination on its quarantine list, the economy suffers. The government should abandon quarantines which don’t work, and focus on more targeted measures like ‘city corridors’.  To continue with the current chaos would be a huge mistake and would cause further severe economic damage and unnecessary hardship to millions around the world.”

The UK is the fourth biggest G20 economy in terms of international Travel & Tourism spend from business travel, which amounted to US$9.5 (£7.5) billion in 2019; 26.5% of all international Travel & Tourism spend.

Of the other G20 countries, the US had the highest international business travel spend in 2019, at US$47.75 (£37.72) billion. Germany was second with US$12.8 (£10.1) billion, China was third with US$10.7 (£8.45) billion, and Russia was fifth with US$8.6 (£6.8) billion.

Last week, WTTC revealed a staggering £22 billion – or £60 million a day – could be lost from the UK economy due to the collapse of international travel during 2020.

WTTC advocates the implementation of a rapid test and trace strategy, with strong collaboration between governments to ensure a standardised global approach to the crisis, which is critical to contain the virus and enable people to travel in safety. 

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