Travel retail B.C. and P.C.

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.
Martin Moodie

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Your coronavirus test result is negative. You did not have the virus when the test was done. If you were self-isolating as an international arrival you may stop self-isolating.

The message from the uber-efficient Collinson testing centre brought the predictable but nevertheless welcome news that my Day 5 Test-to-Release (full name: COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) RT-LAMP) had proven negative. I am now a free man of London, subject to my final Day 8 Test-on-Arrival confirmation on Monday.

Thanks to the outstanding Collinson end-to-end testing and notification system, the whole business of travelling from Hong Kong to the UK has been rendered a whole lot easier than I had feared. The Test-to-Release procedure at Collinson’s Heathrow Airport Terminal 2 centre was straightforward and expertly carried out by a friendly male nurse Kay, who told me how proud he was to be carrying out such important public health work. And so he should be.

Frontline health personnel such as Kay are performing a critical public role at the world’s airports
All done. Now just the 24-hour wait for the all-clear.

Now, back in Blighty for a few weeks, it’s time to catch up with family and friends, highlighted later today by my first sighting of my granddaughter Carys since I met her – socially distanced for goodness sake – last July at ten days old.

How precious such encounters are and how precious therefore travel is to the world. How disappointing then the approach of the British government to international travel protocols. On Thursday, they announced that Portugal was being downgraded from the green list to the amber list under the UK international travel ‘traffic light’ system. What traffic light system was this modelled on? A stock car track? Certainly the whole thing is one giant car crash.

The moves come amid a doubling of COVID cases in Portugal over the past three weeks, rising UK coronavirus cases since some international travel restrictions were lifted on 17 May, and concerns over the latest mutation of the D (for Delta) variant. The Portugal change takes effect on Tuesday, meaning that any UK holidaymakers returning from the country must from that date self-isolate for ten days.

With stories of travellers scrambling to get back before the deadline dominating the headlines, it’s another huge blow for the beleaguered travel industry. According to Sky News, a seat on a Ryanair flight from Lisbon to Manchester on Monday costs £339, whereas the same route is just £75 on Wednesday.

British Airways is charging £348 for flights from Faro to Heathrow on Sunday and Monday, but the price drops to £137 on Tuesday.

Once again, it’s a case of one step forward, two back.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock defended the decision, noting “We’re absolutely determined to keep this country safe, especially from novel variants coming from overseas.”

Whatever one thinks of that view – and certainly it was given short shrift by Portuguese government and medical authorities who said the situation there is no worse than in Britain – the development underlines yet again how very far this crisis is from being resolved either from a medical or travel perspective. And for the travel retail sector it just piles pain upon pain.

Living in Hong Kong for the past few months has perhaps given me an insulated view of the world. Case numbers there have been very low for some time, thanks to a great deal of individual, societal and official responsibility. They’re certainly not low here, nor in many of our neighbouring European countries. Not that I would know it judging from my first walk through my local village today, when there was nary a mask in sight.

The signs might suggest otherwise but the reality is a case of no masks please, we’re British

What to do about this seemingly never-ending crisis? As we used to say in rugby, it’s a matter of playing what’s in front of you. From an industry point of view, it’s pretty much hopeless pining for the halcyon days of 2019 and certainly from my own business’ perspective I’ve long since stopped doing so. Yes you can project and plan for the future but it’s all about doing your best to prosper in the present. There is travel retail B.C. (pre-Covid) and travel retail P.C. (post-Covid). Where does your business belong?

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