Brittany Ferries CEO Christophe Mathieu has released a statement asking for the establishment of safe travel corridors so that the travel industry can being the process of recovery after 12 months of virtual inactivity. His ‘Roadmaps and Sea Lanes’ mission statement is most optimistic about such corridors opening between the UK, France and Spain but is less sanguine about Ireland being included just yet as the vaccine rollout lags behind other countries.
I write to you today amid growing calls for clearer direction from national leaders to help us all understand when life might begin returning to (something like) normal. We all understand that governments are under enormous pressure to make the right decisions and the health of citizens in all the countries to which we operate is key.
But I’ve been listening carefully to you, our loyal customers, and I know many of you are desperate to travel this summer. We’re similarly desperate to take you, within the context of safe, secure travel on board and safe, secure destinations. Governments are discussing roadmaps to help us understand when we can begin to get back on our feet economically and socially; plenty of ideas are being discussed, but one solution we’ve pushed in the last few days relates to travel corridors – and we’ve called the concept “Sea Lanes”. You may have read about our proposals in the media this week, or heard interviews with me and colleagues on television and radio.
This is the idea: where vaccination roll-outs are progressing at pace as they are particularly in the UK – but also ramping up in France and Spain – we believe there is a strong case to be made for some of our travel corridors to be opened more fully. I say ‘some’ for I fully appreciate that currently, in Ireland for instance, the roll out is not yet at the pace of the UK or France. Hopefully this will change in the near future. This is predicated, of course, on infection rates continuing to plunge as a consequence. We’ve been making that case behind the scenes for some time now and it’s starting to gain some traction, since we shared this concept publicly.
Let’s consider the facts: after a slightly bumpy start, four million citizens will have received a first vaccination in France by the end of this month. And 80% of adults are expected to be vaccinated by the end of June – well before the summer season begins. It’s a similar story in Spain, while the UK is already well ahead of the curve with 15 million citizens having received a jab already. We are not health experts of course. We are a travel operator. But based on the data on infection rates and vaccine forecasts in our markets, we think the opening of Sea Lanes represents a much more manageable risk factor for would-be travellers who deserve a brilliant summer after the gloom of the past 12 months. Don’t forget that mental health and wellbeing may be the collateral damage, a hidden third wave if you will, to which a holiday (or even the hope of a holiday) may go some way to supporting.
There are provisos to our argument of course. Data is key to these decisions and now is not yet the time to open up more fully. But if progress continues apace, there is every reason to be considerably more optimistic about western Europe opening up more fully for travel a little later in the year.