The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) says the government should bear the cost of hugely expensive and unnecessary PCR tests for fully jabbed citizens, which are deterring Britons from travelling.
Over the weekend, the UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid requested the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) step in to investigate ‘excessive’ pricing and ‘exploitative practices’ among PCR Covid test firms.
This follows widespread reports of vast differences paid by travellers for PCR tests by different companies.
Currently, the cost of PCR tests vary enormously between providers, with the average costing around £75. However, some firms are offering express PCR test results within 90 minutes at a cost of up to £400.
This makes UK PCR tests among the costliest in Europe – partly due to the 20 per cent VAT charge applied on top.
Now WTTC, which represents the global private Travel & Tourism sector, says it’s time the government stepped up to pay for people’s PCR tests in full if they are fully jabbed.
This would remove the huge financial burden, which is depressing demand for travel, effectively halting the revival of international travel.
Genomic sequencing data from PCR tests is harvested by the government to rapidly identify variants of concern, understand transmission and slow the spread, however WTTC challenges why consumers should have to pay for this.
The global tourism body believes if the government won’t pick up the bill for PCR tests, it should at the very least replace the need for PCR Day two tests from green and amber countries with affordable and effective antigen tests, for fully vaccinated travellers. As in other countries, only those testing positive should need to take a PCR test.
Virginia Messina, WTTC Senior Vice President and Acting CEO, said: “For many people – especially families and small businesses on a budget – the crippling added cost of the unnecessary PCR tests makes the difference between being able to travel or not.
“It’s clear that many British adults simply can’t afford to travel overseas at all if they have to pay the excessive cost of PCR tests.
“More affordable antigen tests, with PCR tests for those who do test positive, will help keep travellers safe and make taking a trip overseas within the budget of most people.
“But if the government wants extra information for genomic sequencing – they should pay for it. If they don’t pay, then consumers will vote with their feet and avoid international travel altogether, further damaging the already struggling UK Travel & Tourism sector.
“At the very least, we support the investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to look into the excessive pricing of PCR tests which is deterring the revival of international travel.
“But unless the government sees sense and accepts the financial responsibility for PCR tests for the fully vaccinated, WTTC fears the UK Travel & Tourism sector is going to continue to buckle while demand for travel remains depressed.”
According to research by WTTC knowledge partner, YouGov, carried out earlier this summer*, almost half of British adults (47 per cent) viewed the financial costs of COVID-19 tests as a main barrier to international travel.
The research also found worries over the cost of tests were placed even ahead of personal health concerns, which came in at 34 per cent.
Meanwhile, more than half (53 per cent) of British adults said the cost of PCR testing will make a significant impact on their budget if they were to travel abroad this year.
Last week WTTC also called upon the UK government to abandon the confusing and damaging traffic light system and replace it with green and red list categories.
These more easily understandable rules, for double-jabbed and unvaccinated travellers, would let consumers know exactly where they stand to make informed decisions about where to travel.
WTTC says under its plans, returning UK visitors would only need an affordable antigen test, with additional costly PCR tests reserved for those who tested positive.
Unvaccinated visitors would continue to take a test on departure, as well as a PCR test on Day two of their return.
WTTC has helped to spearhead the coordinated international response to the impact of the pandemic upon the global Travel & Tourism sector – which has so far cost 62 million jobs in the sector and suffered a loss of almost US$4.3 trillion.