Perceptions of England’s traffic light system and the places Brits might travel to first

Eva StewartGlobal Sector Head of Travel & Tourism
April 28, 2021, 12:58 PM UTC

The government’s announcement to reopen foreign travel using a traffic light system has brought hope – and several questions – to the highly anticipated return of travel. It resonated well amongst those in the industry who have been calling for the traffic light system to be introduced, and others were relieved that the news may finally encourage consumers to start planning and book their next trip.  
 
We polled English adults on what people thought of the framework for the next stage of travel recovery and whether they would be encouraged to travel internationally based on current requirements. The UK government said it will categorise destinations using a ‘red’, ‘amber’ or ‘green’ designation based on factors such as vaccination rates and COVID-19 infections. Our research finds that a majority of adults in Britain support the introduction of a traffic light system (66%) but this doesn’t capture the complete feeling toward traveling abroad again. Even when it comes to the idea of travelling to another country once restrictions are lifted, just three in ten British adults (30%) said they would feel comfortable travelling again immediately once that happens and more than twice that say they would feel uncomfortable (60%). 
 
The traffic light system also brings with it specific testing and quarantine rules for each country's designation. Countries with a ‘green’ designation require a negative COVID-19 result days before and after arriving back to the UK. Nearly half of the English public (49%) say the testing requirement makes it not worth travelling to a ‘green’ country while a third think travel is worth this additional cost and step to get the fit-to-fly tests (33%). Young adults aged 18-24 are the most likely to consider a country labelled as ‘green’ for a holiday (50%) but ‘green’ designations are less popular among those aged 65 and older (22%). 

Only a few countries may be deemed safe enough to make England’s ‘green’ travel list by May 17 and some destinations being floated around include Australia, Iceland, Ireland and the United States. Recent data from YouGov’s DestinationIndex, which tracks public perception of the world’s destinations and people’s willingness to travel there, reveals high demand for many of these destinations, especially with summer rapidly approaching.  

Among Brits who plan on travelling abroad within the next 12 months, many would consider a holiday in the United States (23%; market size of ~3.7 million people) Iceland (19%; ~3 million), Ireland (17%; ~2.8 million), Australia (16%; ~2.5 million) and Israel (6%; ~1 million). As we approach the day foreign travel resumes, it will be interesting to see how consideration is impacted for each of these popular travel destinations. 
And when it comes to travelling to an ‘amber’ country, few adults in England think it is worth it given the testing and quarantine requirements (15%) and are nearly five times as likely to say it is not worth it (71%). While younger adults express a higher rate of willingness to visit an ‘amber’ country under the current requirements, only one in five of adults aged 18-49 it is worth it (20%). 
 
The government plans to review the traffic light system in June, July and October to determine if the testing and quarantine rules for each of the three designations will ease or tighten up as the year unfolds. Given the confusion on the new travel guidelines so far, it will be critical for travel organisations to monitor peoples’ understanding of what’s required of passengers to travel again, their travel sentiment and considerations.

In order to restart travel on a strong note and have a successful summer season, communication to consumers will be key. However, travel brands need to go beyond just advising on the safety of travel; they need to inspire and convince consumers that international travel, destinations, and attractions are absolutely worth the hassle and the additional cost of testing.

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MethodologyThe data on perceptions of the UK’s traffic light system for a safe return to travel is based on the interviews of 1,423 UK adults aged 18 and over. All interviews were conducted online between 8 – 9 April 2021 and results have been weighted to be nationally representative.

The data from YouGov DestinationIndex is based on the interviews of 13,538 British adults aged 18 and over. Interviews were carried out online on a daily basis between 22nd October 2020 – 31st March 2021. Results have been weighted to be nationally representative of British adults.