Summer is normally peak travel season. With schools on vacation, crowds head to the airport, bound for destinations both domestic and international – but this year looks different. While the severity of COVID-19 outbreaks has slowed in many countries, most continue to control the virus through restricted movement, and it’s raising questions among travelers and tourism professionals alike.
Canada, for one, is hoping that things will improve, and their demonstrating that optimism through an expanded flight schedule. Though primarily traveling domestically and between Canada and the US, Canadian airlines will continue making international stops at major airports, including London. The real question is, given the UK’s COVID management restrictions, will anyone be on board?
UK restrictions – What’s in store for travelers
Traveling between the UK and Canada is usually a low-stakes undertaking. That’s because British citizens don’t need a visa to enter Canada, but simply need to file for an electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). That’s the least of UK-based travelers’ worries this summer, though, because the UK has instituted strict quarantine requirements for anyone traveling internationally.
As of June 8, 2020, anyone traveling into the UK from another country – including UK residents who have traveled abroad – must undergo a 14-day quarantine. Unsurprisingly, this policy isn’t popular with tourism professionals, or with many businesses that had hoped to resume professional trips for networking and conferences. Still, with UK COVID cases down significantly as of early July, the policy seems to be working.
Critics call too little, too late
Despite the decline in COVID-19 cases, many have critiqued UK leadership for waiting too long to close the borders, which remained open during the height of the virus, but such criticism may itself be moot. That’s because, with travelers around the world beginning to look abroad, many countries are instituting their own travel bans and quarantine restrictions.
Upon closer examination, the UK’s quarantine rules are actually less strict than many other countries’ policies. For example, while Canadians can enter the UK as long as they quarantine for two weeks, no one can enter Canada from the UK unless they are an immediate family member of a Canadian citizen or entering to perform a state approved task. UK residents are, broadly speaking, also banned from entering the European Union. Critics can say what they will about the UK “canceling summer,” but they are largely in step with other countries.
Ultimately, it’s unfair to pin the lack of summer travel this year on UK leadership – or any country’s government – when the cause is much simpler. If travel is canceled this year, it’s because of a deadly virus. Grounding flights, restricting movement between countries, and enforcing quarantines for those who do travel is just good sense.
There will be consequences to barring international travel, especially for cities dependent on tourism. But while resort towns and other destinations may struggle, economic decline is preferable to courting death. There will be many more summers with opportunities to vacation. Those countries, including the UK, that have chosen to restrict travel are simply trying to ensure that their citizens survive to see the next summer.