Efforts to restart Europe’s mammoth travel and tourism sector have suffered another major setback, after the UK government added the world’s most visited country to its quarantine list.
Travelers arriving from France will have to quarantine for 14 days starting on Saturday, according to the latest guidance from the UK Department of Transport, which was updated late on Thursday.
The decision was made after France reported 2,669 new coronavirus infections on Thursday. The UK government will also add the Netherlands, Monaco and Malta to its list.
Travel stocks tumbled on the news, which could disappoint millions of hopeful vacationers. Shares in EasyJet (ESYJY)and tour operator TUI plunged nearly 8%. British Airways parent IAG fell about 6% and Ryanair (RYAAY) lost more than 4%.
France is the second most popular destination for Britons after Spain, which was already on the British government’s quarantine list.
UK residents made 10.3 million trips to France in 2019 and spent about £5.2 billion ($6.8 billion), according to the UK Tourism Alliance, a lobby group. France, which has vowed to apply reciprocal measures, is also a vital source of tourists, accounting for 3.6 million visitors to Britain last year, second only to the United States.
“It’s another devastating blow to the travel industry already reeling from the worst crisis in its history,” Airlines UK told CNN Business.
The industry body said that “broad-brush, weekly ‘stop and go’ changes” to travel corridors are disruptive to airlines and passengers alike, and it urged the government to adopt a more targeted approach to quarantines.
It added that all international arrivals should be tested, with only those who test positive entering quarantine. Airlines have also called for a testing program to allow the rapid restoration of transatlantic air travel.
The International Air Transport Association echoed calls for a more “pragmatic approach” to quarantine.
The new restrictions will further hamper attempts to draw tourists back to the European Union, where the travel and tourism sector risks losing as much as €1.2 trillion ($1.4 trillion) in GDP and 18.3 million jobs this year, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.
France is the world’s most visited destination, boasting 89 million tourist arrivals in 2018, according to the UN World Tourism Organization.
“While many Europeans are keen to travel again and enjoy summer 2020, they don’t have the confidence to book a trip given the lack of clarity around border barriers, availability of transportation, along with the health and safety protocols in their chosen destination,” the European Travel Commission, a grouping of national tourism organizations, said in a statement Thursday.
A positive trend in bookings for flights within Europe at the start of July has “faded,” it added. And global bookings to Europe were down 72% in July, compared to the same month last year, according to travel analytics company, Sojern.
Data from the World Travel and Tourism Council shows that travel and tourism was responsible for 22.6 million jobs, or 11.2% of the EU workforce last year. It estimates that nearly 3 million jobs could be lost in Britain due to the collapse of travel.
— Chris Liakos, Eoin McSweeney and Alexander Durie contributed reporting.