Should I Stay or Should I Go? Industry Experts’ Opinions on the UK’s New Traffic Light System for International Travel


The new traffic light system for international travel has caused a surge of confusion across England, many unsure of exactly where they stand on travelling to “amber” and “red” countries, while the green list includes only a handful of places that exclude many of Brits’ popular holiday destinations.

With advice from the government recently making headlines for being confusingly contrasting, and the travel sector just beginning to emerge from the lifted international travel ban, we decided to talk to industry experts on this new traffic light system – exploring their opinions and predictions on the impact this system could have on the industry…


Our Travel Experts:

  • Rob Burgess – Editor of Head for Points
  • Jane Hawkes – Consumer Champion and Travel Expert
  • Chris King – Head of Travel Insurance at Compare the Market
  • Karen Slater – CEO of Inspire Me Travel Ltd
  • Justin Wang – VP of Brand at Omio
  • Nathan Cable – Founder of Party Hard Travel
  • John Paul Donnelly – Founder of 5 Star Villa Holidays
  • Darryl McGarvey – Director of Travel Partnerships at SAP Concur UK


For any questions, comments or features, please contact us directly.



Rob Burgess, Editor of Head for Points




“This structure does not work for the business traveller. There is still no clarity over how travel is meant for work for people undertaking same-day or overnight business trips.”

“How are you meant to submit a covid test taken up to two days before flying, when you have only been in a country for 10 hours? It is pointless submitting a test you took in the UK before you left, since this proves nothing. Airport e-gates also need to be reopened immediately for Green List passengers – no-one is going to queue for 6 hours at Heathrow after returning from a business day trip.”

“In reality, the Green List now appears to be more about dealing with the weaknesses at Border Force. As they admitted on Friday, it is taking 12-14 minutes to process each passenger.”

“An A380 holds around 500 passengers when full, which means 100 man-hours of Border Force time. With the typical 10 desks open at Heathrow, it would take 10 hours to process passengers from just one full A380, and this assumes that no other aircraft arrive in those 10 hours. This clearly isn’t going to work.”


Jane Hawkes, Consumer Champion and Travel Expert


Credit: Janet Gow Photography


Jane Hawkes is the author of the Lady Janey Consumer & Travel Blog

“The traffic light system in itself isn’t anything new as a rudimentary form has really been in effect since the introduction of hotel quarantine in February for red list countries. All other countries by default being on an unofficial amber list and the only country with no restrictions for travel to the UK being Ireland (green).”

“One main difference between the previous setup and the new traffic light system is that PCR testing is required for all arrivals regardless of country list colour. For some families, the combined cost of testing could potentially price them out of taking a holiday.”

“A further difference is the anticipated notice period between any changes of status which is set to be weeks rather than days. The should prevent last minute frantic dashes to get home by holidaymakers before new restrictions came into force as was the case with Spain last year. There will also be green watchlist which will identify countries which could move from green to amber.”

“The size of the new green list which excludes many popular holiday destinations is disappointing albeit not unexpected and is understandable giving the ongoing trepidation about opening up travel.”

“Holidaymakers should be aware of the implications of what list changes could mean for their consumer rights. The CMA’s stance remains that if a service or product cannot be provided due to the pandemic that it would expect a refund to be offered. However disinclination to travel is not a valid reason for a refund.”

“For maximum protection, it’s vital to choose a package holiday which is covered accordingly by The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements 2018, pay by credit card for Section 75 cover and also to take out appropriate travel insurance. Many providers do offer flexible policies which allow for amendments or cancellations so as to boost consumer confidence with no quibble refunds. It’s worth doing your research.”


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Chris King, Head of Travel Insurance at Compare the Market


Chris-King-Head-of-Travel Insurance-at-Compare-the-Market


“As the UK moves out of lockdown, the Government has now confirmed that travel from certain countries will fall under a traffic light system – giving some hope for summer holidays this year.”

“However, for those planning a trip abroad for later this year, travel insurance has become even more essential given the ongoing and fast-changing nature of COVID- 19 related restrictions.”

“The pandemic has changed the types of cover offered by insurers and people should consider the differences between policies when buying travel insurance. Some policies may offer cover for COVID related disruption, for instance if your flight is cancelled or you are denied boarding due to suspected COVID symptoms, but some providers do not currently offer this ‘enhanced’ cover.”

“When buying a travel insurance policy, it is even more crucial to read details carefully to ensure you know what you will be covered for. It is also important to check the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) guidance on any country you are planning to travel to as different places will have their own rules and restrictions.”



Karen Slater, CEO of Inspire Me Travel Ltd




“Not only was the list of Green destinations very short, several which had been predicted to be on there were not. So many European countries have caught up with the UK now when it comes to controlling the virus and rolling out the vaccines. So the announcement is yet another blow to the tourism industry.”

“On a positive note, I feel by the end of June, the green list will have grown substantially. What is needed now is clarity on testing. This is all so vague still, and imperative people know how to access the tests otherwise they will not be allowed to travel. I am astonished there is no mention of vaccines; most of Europe will be allowing tourists into their countries if they are fully vaccinated which will eliminate the need for testing; here in the UK, no mention of that.”


Justin Wang, VP of Brand at Omio




“We want to take the confusion out of colour-coding. With destinations likely to move between red, amber and green over time, and different rules in place once travellers have been vaccinated, our unique tool is the go-to bookmark for travellers. As entry requirements evolve rapidly, we’re anticipating confusion among Brits and the OTI is something they can check often and easily for reliable information.”

“We’re anticipating a late bookings market as many were inconvenienced through the last year with rescheduled travel. Our OTI tracker provides clear information about refund policies which help travellers navigate new regulations clearly.”

“Our search data currently shows that Brits are most eager to get to Paris once regulations relax, followed by Amsterdam. Interestingly, Spain is the only country that features twice in the top ten, with both Madrid and Barcelona making it into the list of most-searched destinations. We’re keen to help people travel just as soon as it is safe to do so, armed with all of the relevant information to ensure that they can do so with confidence. Our OTI simplifies the traffic light system by presenting all of the destinations you could go to from the UK in realtime, alongside the relevant restrictions.”

“As countries reopen with a myriad of different restrictions and conditions, those looking to travel are drowning in information. Our objective is to simplify delivery of that information with the Open Travel Index. We had fantastic feedback when we first launched the OTI in June 2020, helping customers navigate the complexities of reopening after the first lockdowns. As we enter a slow recovery in Europe heading into the summer season, the Open Travel Index is here to provide both a functional tool and future inspiration.”


For any questions, comments or features, please contact us directly.



Nathan Cable, Founder of Party Hard Travel




“I think that it’s a positive sign that travel is now legal; it’s the first step to getting things back to normality. Many of the green list destinations are not traditional holiday destinations, but at least there are a handful of destinations people can actually travel to like Portugal, Gibraltar and Iceland. As travel starts up once more, even in a limited way, it will enable the operational side of the industry to begin adapting to all of the new restrictions, checks and measures which are now in place.”

“We are hoping that the next announcement from the government will re-start the travel industry with key British summer holiday destinations, such as Spain and Greece, being added to the green list. The pent up demand is huge and if we get a clear announcement of travel opening up, we are expecting to have the busiest month in our history.”

“Another key factor that needs to be addressed is the cost and feasibility of the PCR testing rules. For our market of younger travellers, the additional costs of purchasing multiple PCR tests may well mean they are unable to afford to travel.”

“We remain hopeful for the travel industry that we finally get some positive news in the next month. If not, I fear that many businesses will not survive the storm of two full years of no income and minimal financial support.”


John Paul Donnelly, Founder of 5 Star Villa Holidays


JP-Donnelly-5 Star-Villa-Holidays-founder


“International travel resuming on the 17th May was a positive step for the travel industry. Unfortunately for British travellers, the places they want to travel to, like Cyprus, Spain and Florida are on the amber list.”

“We are told that the green list will be reviewed every three weeks, allowing more destinations to be added. That can’t come soon enough for destinations and property owners around the world who have worked incredibly hard to make their places and properties safe for travellers, adapting to new rules and regulations.”

“People are desperate to get travelling again, and with the new traffic light system we are hopefully one step closer to this happening.”


For any questions, comments or features, please contact us directly.



Darryl McGarvey, Director of Travel Partnerships at SAP Concur UK




“Business travel is one aspect of travel that has changed dramatically as a result of the pandemic. Recent research from SAP Concur found that the most common emotions business travellers feel about their next business trip include anxiety (43%) and worry (37%). This shows that traveller confidence will need to be considered and companies must adapt to the new travel policies, including the government’s traffic light system.”

“Even though the traffic light system has listed some countries as green, the country itself may not allow international travel and may have their own testing requirements upon arrival. Duty of care will now be a key focus for organisations as they will need to consider traveller safety and wellbeing before allowing their employees to travel again.”

 “In the UK, 75% of business travellers intend to take some degree of action if their employer does not implement new measures when they return to business travel and 50% would like travel to be limited or reduced in their current position. The traffic light system will be reviewed again a few weeks after travel begins so the country lists are likely to be changed over the next few months. Companies will need to be proactive with supporting and safeguarding their employees by putting pre-trip approvals and guidance in place, following the traffic light system and booking trips with a flexible policy.”