Veteran tour guide and photographer Paul Goldstein was on the first flight to the Algarve this morning for 24 hours and sent a postcard to Grant Shapps
Dear Mr Shapps,
At 6.55am the Ryanair captain gently coaxed his 737 across the apron at Stansted. His voice broke with pride: “We will be departing on time for Faro, welcome aboard.”
He could have added “we’ve missed you,” as the reciprocity positively crackled in the cabin. The guinea-pig holidaymakers on board who have had to jump through countless costly hoops, even for this most verdant of green-listed countries, were euphoric.
I could feel their yearning excitement, yet my overriding feeling, after 37 years working in the travel industry, was one of anger and indignation. How dare people be almost completely denied this pleasure, and your ridiculous green list shows scant regard for science, geography but more specifically, travel?
Of the dozen countries you magnanimously cherry-picked, many are in the depths of a South Sea winter, others cannot be accessed except via the condemned red countries, which pretty much leaves Gibraltar (750 beds max), Israel (right now?), Iceland (if you have had both jabs) and Portugal.
This list has been cobbled together, just like the absurd corridors last year, and they are thrusting millions of travel industry workers into penury. This morning, however, there was a stoical air of defiance, as no-one on the FR7014 had taken their seat by accident: the unholy trinity of pre-flight test, passenger locator form and post-arrival PCR rather kills the excitement and romance of planning.
Even with this Byzantine level of red tape, I still managed to relax by a coruscating Atlantic, but still hold you responsible for the craven destruction of an industry I hold so dear. Similar to FCDO advice, your ludicrous listings are based on neither good sense nor fair play.
If it were not so punishing it would be laughable, and needs addressing soon, or this big employer will cease to exist. Tourism cannot be turned on and off like a tap. There are a dozen things that need fixing and organising before anyone can step across the much-neglected departure lounge.
As I queued on a wet Essex morning, it all came back to me: the ruminant-like obedience through the airport, the shops and particularly restaurants ripping you off, the patronising safety drill and the giddy feeling in the stomach as the plane banked and descended. Oh I’ve missed it, all of it.
What I have not missed is the smug two-house owners preening about staycations and glamping. Nor should anyone applaud those “We had the whole place to ourselves” vain social media postings; how does this help local economies? Crucially, if people are vaccinated, why on earth can they not travel?
I’ve longed for it – we all have, Grant. You need to understand how much people have invested in this. You have written off whole continents, such as Africa, where many countries have barely been touched by coronavirus. You have destroyed economies with your red and amber watchwords. And as for your green list, it is a green wash at best. Don’t rinse and repeat it please.