Brittany Ferries calls for clarity on when travellers can ditch PCR tests

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Cross-channel transporter Brittany Ferries is calling for clarity on Covid testing for travellers in order to give holiday firms a half-term boost.

The company, which sails to France and Spain from Plymouth and Portsmouth, said the travel sector needs urgent clarification on the date by which returning holiday makers can switch from expensive PCR tests to cheaper lateral flow tests.

The measure, announced by transport secretary Grant Shapps and accompanied by the end of pre-departure tests commencing on October 4, will make an international holiday more attractive and less expensive for travellers. PCR tests, which can cost between £43 and more than £90 per person, will be replaced later in October, but no exact date was given.

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The Government said the aim is to have it in place for when people return for half term breaks but Brittany Ferries said that without a clear deadline travellers will remain cautious.

Brittany Ferries has seen a 71% increase in reservations for the October half-term period and a 25% increase in forward reservations for 2022.

But many customers say they are waiting for absolute clarity over lateral flow test provisions before booking their next trip to France or Spain. The company said the “woolly aspiration” that the change will come into force from the end of October is not helpful.

Holiday makers and travel companies need urgent clarification to release a dam of pent-up demand, the company, which has its UK headquarters in Plymouth, said.

“We welcome changes to the travel framework for fully jabbed Brits and we have seen a significant increase in reservations as a consequence,” said Paul Acheson, sales and marketing director, Brittany Ferries.

“However, many families looking for a last-minute break are understandably still wary. We need the Government to announce a clear date upon which PCR tests will revert to lateral flow.

“This will release a dam of demand, supporting those working in the travel sector and giving holiday makers the full confidence they need to book a last minute get-away.”

This autumn Brittany Ferries is operating a wide range of sailings from Portsmouth to Caen, Cherbourg, St Malo, Bilbao and Santander, as well as from Plymouth to Roscoff and Santander.

Brittany Ferries also offers a wide choice of sail-and stay holidays in France and Spain, with a choice of gites and cottages, hotels, apartments and campsites.

Earlier in September 2021, world-leading shipping company CMA CGM Group announced it had made a 25million-euro investment in Brittany Ferries to help it bounce back after the Covid pandemic by carrying more freight.

The agreement establishes a commercial partnership between the CMA CGM Group,which operates a fleet of 542 container ships around the world, and Brittany Ferries through the use of available cargo space on board ferry services to the UK, Ireland and the Iberian Peninsula.

It will mean Brittany Ferries carrying more goods aboard its roll-on roll-off (roro) ships, thereby gaining more expertise in freight and logistics and adapting to the post-Covid-19 trend in goods transportation.

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French-owned Brittany Ferries was launched in 1972 and started operation in January 1973. It now employs 2,474 people and runs 12 vessels between France, the UK, Spain and Ireland. But it saw revenue dip to 202.4m euros in 2020, from 469m euros the year before, as the Covid pandemic curbed services, slashing passenger numbers to 752,102 in 2020 from 2,498,354 in 2019.

Freight was less badly affected during the pandemic with 160,377 vehicles carried in 2020, compared to 201,554 in 2019. In October 2020, the company predicted a freight boost could occur as trade continued and even expanded post-Covid lockdowns.

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William TelfordBusiness Editor, Plymouth Live