Grant Shapps has told people to “start to think” about booking their summer holidays abroad.
The Transport Secretary said it was the first time in “many months” he was not advising against foreign travel.
On Friday Mr Shapps announced a “framework” for the resumption of overseas leisure travel, which included requiring all arrivals to take pre-departure and post-arrival coronavirus tests.
Post-arrival tests must be the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) type which cost about £120, he said.
This led to a furious backlash from the travel industry, which wants travellers returning from low-risk countries to be allowed to take lateral flow tests, which are cheaper and quicker.
Asked if people could start to book foreign holidays now, Mr Shapps told Sky News: “I’m not telling people that they shouldn’t book summer holidays now, it’s the first time that I’ve been able to say that for many months.”
Hi comments come in the same week Downing Street published guidance urging people “not to book summer holidays abroad until the picture is clearer”.
He added: “Costs are definitely a concern, it’s one of the factors this year, and we have to accept we’re still going through a global pandemic.
“And so we do have to be cautious and I’m afraid that does involve having to have some tests and the like.
“But, I am undertaking today to drive down the costs of those tests and looking at some innovative things we could do.”
The Global Travel Taskforce report has set out the approach to safely restart international travel. This will ensure businesses and the economy continue to grow as well as helping reconnect families across the globe.✈️
— Department for Transport (@transportgovuk) April 9, 2021
Mark Tanzer, boss of travel trade organisation Abta, said permitting the use of lateral flow tests would “make international travel more accessible and affordable whilst still providing an effective mitigation against reimportation of the virus”.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, the industry body representing UK-registered carriers, said the announcement “does not represent a reopening of travel as promised by ministers”.
Current travel restrictions will be “formally reviewed” on June 28 to take account of “the domestic and international health picture and to see whether current measures could be rolled back”, the Department for Transport (DfT) said.
Further reviews will take place no later than July 31 and October 1.
A “Green Watchlist” will be introduced to identify countries most at risk of moving from “green” to “amber”.