Industry Report: Public point finger of blame at government policies for overseas travel chaos

Industry Report: Public point finger of blame at government policies for overseas travel chaos

Seven out of 10 Brits say the government is to blame for the chaos surrounding overseas travel during the pandemic, according to research released today (Monday 1 November) by WTM London.

The poll of 1,000 consumers found that half solely blamed the government, while a further fifth (22%) blamed both the government and travel industry.

Another fifth said the confusion was not the fault of government nor the travel industry – and just 6% blamed the travel industry, reveals the WTM Industry Report.

The findings come after 18 months of unprecedented disruption to travel across the globe as the Covid-19 pandemic took its toll.

In the UK, the government banned international travel in March 2020, with some easing of restrictions in summer 2020. Further bans were imposed as cases rose in autumn – then limited overseas travel was allowed again from May 2021, with the introduction of the controversial traffic light system.

Despite forging ahead with the vaccination programme from December 2020, the UK did not see its international travel markets open up to the extent of its European neighbours, as the cost of PCR testing and short notice of changes to traffic light lists deterred consumers.

Holidaymakers in destinations such as Portugal, France and Mexico faced a scramble to return to the UK to avoid mandatory quarantine requirements – meaning many consumers opted instead for a staycation or no holidays at all.

Meanwhile, travel agents, tour operators, airlines and others in the travel industry campaigned tirelessly for the government to deliver a meaningful restart to international travel – although most have now suffered two summers of lost trading and face a battle to survive into 2022.

The confusion was compounded by the fact that the devolved nations were responsible for their own rules. It meant, for example, that Scottish and Welsh travellers were limited for much of the summer 2021 season to just one provider of PCR Covid-19 tests.

The consumer poll found that a higher percentage of Scots (57%) blamed their government alone for the chaos.

WTM London takes place over the next three days (Monday 1 – Wednesday 3 November) at ExCeL – London.

Simon Press, WTM London, Exhibition Director, said: “The second summer of the pandemic saw British holidaymakers endure another season of confusing, ever-changing and complicated rules for overseas travel, so it’s not surprising that bookings remained well below pre-Covid levels.

“A second lost summer, with no sector-specific support for agents, operators and airlines, means that this winter will see more business failures and job losses.

“In normal times, outbound travel contributes £37.1 billion in gross value added (GVA) to the UK economy and sustains 221,000 UK jobs – a larger number than the British steel industry.

“The travel sector has lobbied hard for clearer rules and financial aid but this has fallen on deaf ears for much of 2020 and 2021 – we must keep the pressure up into 2022 to ensure that the UK government, and its counterparts around the world hear our message and deliver the legislation that will support our recovery.”



World Travel Market (WTM) Portfolio comprises leading travel events, online portals and virtual platforms across four continents, generating more than $7.5 billion of industry deals. The events are:

WTM London, the leading global event for the travel industry, is the must-attend three-day exhibition for the worldwide travel and tourism industry. Around 50,000 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international media visit ExCeL London every November, generating over £3.71 billion in travel industry contracts. In 2020, WTM Virtual facilitated 20,000+ meetings and held 42 live content sessions over the 3-days show.

Next live event: Monday 1 to 3 November 2021 at ExCel London

Next WTM Virtual: Monday 8 to 9 November 2021 – Virtual

Travel Forward London is the leading travel technology event, co-located with WTM London. Travel Forward is renowned for showcasing the next-generation technologies for the travel, tourism and hospitality industry. Over 19,000 travel officials and 150+ innovative solution providers attend for 3 days of cutting-edge insights, open debate and unrivalled networking opportunities. The combination of a 2-day conference, interactive exhibition and start-up showcase makes Travel Forward truly unique.

Next live event: Monday 1 November to Wednesday 3 November 2021 at ExCel London

Next Travel Forward Virtual: Monday 8 November to Tuesday 9 November 2021 – Virtual

London Travel Week, brought to you by WTM London, is the one-stop-shop for event hosts and visitors to be able to shape the next 12 months of travel together. The festival of events supports the global travel and tourism industry through capturing invaluable news and enhancing industry connections.

Next event: Friday 29 October – Friday 5 November 2021

WTM Virtualis the WTM Portfolio virtual platform, created to offer global delegates the chance to arrange one-to-one virtual meetings, to do business, attend conference sessions and roundtables, take part in speed networking and more. WTM Virtual embrace the global leading travel shows in one platform.

WTM Latin America takes place annually in São Paulo and attracts around 19,000 tourism professionals during a three-day event. The show offers qualified content, as well as networking and business opportunities. In its ninth edition – the first 100% virtual – WTM Latin America followed its focus on effective business generation and reached the milestone of 4,200 meetings held between buyers, travel agents and exhibitors.

Next event: Tuesday 5 to Thursday 7 April 2022 – Expo Center Norte, SP, Brazil

WTM Africa launched in 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa. More than 6,000 travel industry professionals attend Africa’s leading inbound and outbound travel and tourism market. WTM Africa delivers a proven mix of hosted buyers, media, pre-scheduled appointments, on-site networking, evening functions and invited travel trade visitors.

Next event: Monday 11 to Wednesday 13 April 2022 – Cape Town International Convention Centre, Cape Town

Arabian Travel Market (ATM), now on its 29th year, is the leading, international travel and tourism event in the Middle East for inbound and outbound tourism professionals. ATM 2021 showcased over 1,300 exhibiting companies from 62 countries across nine halls at Dubai World Trade Centre, with visitors from more than 140 countries over the four days. Arabian Travel Market is part of Arabian Travel Week. #IdeasArriveHere

Next in-person event: Sunday 8 to Wednesday 11 May 2022, Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai

Arabian Travel Week is a festival of events taking place within and alongside Arabian Travel Market 2022. Providing a renewed focus for the Middle East’s travel and tourism sector, it includes ATM Virtual, ILTM Arabia, Arival Dubai, Influencers’ events and activations, as well as Travel Forward. It also features the ATM Buyer Forums, ATM Speed Networking Events as well as a series of country summits.

WTM Global Hub, is the new WTM Portfolio online portal created to connect and support travel industry professionals around the world. The resource hub offers the latest guidance and knowledge to help exhibitors, buyers and others in the travel industry face the challenges of the global coronavirus pandemic. WTM Portfolio is tapping into its global network of experts to create content for the hub.

About RX (Reed Exhibitions)

RX is in the business of building businesses for individuals, communities and organisations. We elevate the power of face to face events by combining data and digital products to help customers learn about markets, source products and complete transactions at over 400 events in 22 countries across 43 industry sectors. RX is passionate about making a positive impact on society and is fully committed to creating an inclusive work environment for all our people. RX is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers.


RELX is a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers. The Group serves customers in more than 180 countries and has offices in about 40 countries. It employs over 33,000 people, of whom almost half are in North America. The shares of RELX PLC, the parent company, are traded on the London, Amsterdam and New York Stock Exchanges using the following ticker symbols: London: REL; Amsterdam: REN; New York: RELX. The market capitalisation is approximately £33bn, €39bn, $47bn.*

*Note: Current market capitalisation can be found at

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World Travel Market brings the travel industry together through world-leading events, content and digital tools that make it easier for you to find personal and business opportunities and do more effective business.

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