DestinationsAgents have pointed out the confusing statements issued by the British Foreign Office regarding travel to overseas destinations

UK no-quarantine list stirs up interest – and confusion – over travel to Asia

The UK government said arrivals from countries where the Covid-19 outbreak is not under control will be subject to quarantines. Credit: Tomek Baginski/Unsplash
The UK government said arrivals from countries where the Covid-19 outbreak is not under control will be subject to quarantines. Credit: Tomek Baginski/Unsplash

The United Kingdom has on Friday announced a list of 59 overseas countries for which a 14-day quarantine will not be required for returning travellers. 

Popular Asia destinations on the UK exemption list starting July 10 include Australia, Vietnam and Japan, countries which have brought the pandemic under control within their borders. 

But notably missing are the Maldives, Thailand and China, despite their success in the contagion outbreak, meaning that arrivals from these countries will have to self isolate upon their return to the UK. 

"Instead of quarantining arrivals from the whole world, we will only quarantine arrivals from those countries where the virus is sadly not under control," UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was quoted by BBC as saying at the Downing Street press briefing. 

But David Kevan of Chic Locations, a luxury boutique tour operator based in London, questioned the "confusing and conflicting travel information" coming from the British government.

The luxury travel specialist had received immediate inquiries from clients asking about visiting Thailand after the Southeast Asia nation was exempted from the UK's 'all but essential’ travel list, but he had to explain to them that their trips were unlikely to happen as the Thai kingdom, like many countries around the world, has yet to open its  borders to international travellers. 

Calling the statements from the British government "misleading", Kevan explained: "The Thai government have not opened their borders and their priority is first domestic tourism, then regional tourism. Acceptance of UK visitors is way down the agenda, plus there are no flights." 

Also questioning the rationale of how countries were drawn up under the UK's safe travel or quarantine-exempt lists is Vickum Nawagamuwage, founder and CEO of Santani Resort and Spa in Sri Lanka. 

With Sri Lanka having "a better record of managing Covid-19 than New Zealand" but appearing on neither lists of the British government, Nawagamuwage foresees less impacts on existing bookings than the perception of Sri Lanka as as a safe destination for the UK market. 

On the other hand, the exclusion of the Maldives from the UK quarantine-exempt list has put a dampener on travel demand for the Indian Ocean nation, which is reopening to all tourists from July 15.

"We had so many [Maldives] enquiries all ready to move into positive bookings with departures within the next four months," said Kevan. "We now have to tell clients that the Maldives is still showing as 'only travel if essential' by the UK government, so if you proceed against the government advice this nullifies your insurance, and you must have insurance to enter the Maldives. Plus, on your return to UK you need to go into quarantine for two weeks." 

As a result, clients have halted their travel plans for the Maldives, which Kevan says is a "great pity" as the atoll nation offers "one of the most ideal concepts at the moment with one resort per island, generally low-rise accommodation and plenty of open space".

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