LONDON (AP) – Travel restrictions imposed to curb the transmission of the omicron variant of the coronavirus are hitting the already beleaguered travel and tourism industry, heralding a bleak Europe amid the crucial Christmas holiday season.
There are many unknown aspects of the new variant, although mounting evidence indicates that it is more easily transmitted. As scientists rush to investigate how severe it is and the effectiveness of vaccines against it, the uncertainty itself prompts changes in plans.
Amanda Wheelock, a graduate student at the University of Michigan, canceled a trip to France with her partner due to the wave of cases in the country. Although it is not certain that it was due to the omicron, the uncertainty about the new variant and the requirement that American travelers must test negative before returning to the country made him fear a trip more stressful than fun.
“A high-stress vacation is not a very good vacation,” said 29-year-old Wheelock.
She is not the only one who thinks this way. The Advantage Travel Group, which represents some 350 UK travel agents, said travel was down 40% in mid-December compared to the previous month. The numbers, which include combined flight, cruise and vacation bookings, add to the slump in the sector, whose business has shrunk by two-thirds since the start of the pandemic, CEO Julia Lo Bue-Said said.
“Our members deal with clients who are really nervous,” he said. “They are afraid to make reservations for the New Year because of the risk that the government will take action on reflex.”
Britain is going through one of the most dramatic waves, unfortunately for pubs and restaurants who have had to cancel all parties in the days leading up to Christmas. Treasury Secretary Rishi Sunak met with industry representatives on Thursday to hear their concerns about how to survive a new season with a sharp drop in income.
Travel chamber Abta said he deserved the same treatment from the government. He demanded an “urgent meeting” with Sunak and Transportation Secretary Mark Shapps to discuss the “current financial situation and the pressing need for financial support” for the sector.
“The government has recognized the bad situation of the hotel sector, with the decline in business of 40% in December,” said manager Mark Tanzer. “But at the same time, it overlooks the travel industry, whose revenues have fallen 78% this year and have been hit by the new omicron restrictions since late November.”