The UK government launched one of its most controversial pandemic policies last week, and the travel industry is up in arms.
Any traveller arriving in the UK now has to enter quarantine for 14 days, but there are several loopholes. Quarantined travellers can leave to go shopping, or visit a pharmacy, and they are able to take public transport from the airport to their quarantine destination.
The policy has been widely condemned by the already ailing travel and hospitality sectors, and over the past month they have fought back with a highly effective lobbying and press campaign.
The campaign was co-created by The PC Agency founder Paul Charles. He joined PRWeek’s podcast, The PR Show, alongside Kuoni head of communications Rachel O'Reilly and PRWeek editor-in-chief Danny Rogers to discuss the policy, its impact on the industry and the effectiveness of the Quash Quarantine campaign.
Charles said there is only one word to describe the government’s new quarantine rules: “ridiculous”.
“The countries that have had very few death rates and cases, put quarantine in place at the start of March, at the start of the pandemic, which follows the best WHO advice,” he told The PR Show.
“Nobody can understand why they are doing it now when our cases are still relatively high and the countries around us have far fewer cases with a lower R rate. It’s a rushed policy, poorly thought out and it’s unworkable.”
Kuoni, one of the world’s leading premium travel agencies, has been devastated by the pandemic, with no overseas bookings for the first time in its 50-year history in the UK.
O’Reilly said this is the biggest crisis the travel industry has ever seen and new quarantine rules will devastate operators that rely on the “summer sun” peak season.
“In addition to the quarantine measures, we still have an FCO advisory against non-essential travel; we have no idea when that is going to be lifted. Every travel industry would like to be able to plan,” she added.
“A lot of the problems in our business in the early stages were from other countries imposing quarantine, which made it very difficult for people on multi-centre itineraries to travel around.
“Very early on... it was making our business operations nigh-on impossible, but those quarantine measures were taken at the right time. Now to introduce them here, it’s another layer of confusion… on top of everything else.”
The campaign was conceived when tourism operator Red Savannah’s founder and chief executive, George Morgan-Grenville, contacted Charles asking for advice about a letter he had written to the Home Secretary Priti Patel opposing the quarantine measures.
From that point, the pair rallied the support of 77 signatories to the letter, which provided the foundation for Quash Quarantine. Today, the campaign is backed by more than 500 leading hospitality and travel companies across the UK.
“I’ve been staggered by the outrage felt by the industry and I think that has helped us get even more coverage,” Charles said.
“This is a hot issue for the media and we’ve had front pages for two weeks. I think this has got to go down as one of the stories that has run and run, even longer than the Dominic Cummings saga.”
PRWeek's Rogers, who is an expert on the travel PR sector, told The PR Show that agencies serving the travel and tourism sector have been hit harder than any other during this crisis.
“The travel sector has been completely halted. Any agency doing communications for travel brands has really had a torrid time and found that they can’t get much payment from hotels, airlines or travel companies,” he said.
Later in the programme, Rogers compared Quash Quarantine’s effectiveness with other major government lobbying campaigns.
The PR Show also looks at the remarkable results the campaign has already delivered, and whether it is changing the views of decision-makers. Our panellists also discuss recovery in the travel and communications industries.
This is a podcast that comms professionals and holidaymakers should not miss.