A CALL to ease quarantine restrictions on travellers from abroad over fears it will damage the region’s economy has been made by the Mayor of the West Midlands and the boss of Birmingham Airport.
In a letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel, Mayor Andy Street and Birmingham Airport chief executive Nick Barton warn that the newly-implemented strict aviation quarantine rules will have a long-term detrimental effect on both the West Midlands’ travel industry and its business tourism sector.
Under the restrictions introduced last week, travellers arriving from abroad are ordered to spend 14 days in isolation, making many business and holiday trips unrealistic.
It has raised concern at the airport, which has seen a 90 per cent fall in passenger numbers due to the pandemic, and among the region’s business tourism industry which relies significantly on travel from abroad.
With the restrictions due to come under review later this month, the Mayor and Birmingham Airport are urging the government to adopt a more flexible approach, particularly with regard to those arriving from low risk countries or locations.
Mayor Andy Street, who signed the letter on behalf of the region’s Economic Impact Group (EIG), said: “What the government is trying to achieve from a public health perspective with these measures is absolutely right, but the 14-day quarantine will have unintended and severe consequences for our regional economy.
“The EIG and Birmingham Airport believe these public health outcomes can be achieved through other measures, such as testing on arrival and air bridges.
“Not only do the current measures hamper tourism, with international tourists contributing more than £800m each year to the local economy, but it also impacts our businesses.
“The West Midlands is very proudly home to a number of major businesses – such as JLR, National Express, and Mondelez – who rely on international travel to conduct business. The quarantine restrictions are not only hampering their recovery, but the recovery of our region.”
Nick Barton said the restrictions would do further damage to Birmingham Airport, which has already had to pause its £500m expansion plans because of Coronavirus.
He said: “The longer the blanket quarantine policy is in place, greater and more damaging impacts will be felt by our business and industry as a whole.
“We are urgently calling for this policy to be amended to take a risk-based approach. We need urgent clarity on the travel restrictions to stimulate demand so that airlines have the confidence to restart services and support the UK’s economic recovery.”
In 2018 tourism was worth £836million to the regional economy, boosted by popular destinations like Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick.
Birmingham Airport employs 7,000 workers in the West Midlands directly, and helps support a further 31,000 more across the region.