Outbound travel pushed to the brink by government’s inaction

July 29, 2021 | AITO – The Specialist Travel Association

AITO

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS… OUTBOUND TRAVEL PUSHED TO THE BRINK BY GOVERNMENT’S INACTION / LACK OF COMPREHENSION OF THE HUGE LONG-TERM COST TO THE ECONOMY

AITO CLAIMS 500,000 TRAVEL JOBS AT RISK – BUT THE 31st JULY REVIEW RECOMMENDED IN THE SECOND GTT REPORT OFFERS A KEY OPPORTUNITY

Chris Rowles, Chairman of AITO, The Specialist Travel Association (a 45-year-long alliance of some 200 specialist tour operators and specialist travel agents) decries the lack of Government support or comprehension of the huge problems faced by 500,000 travel industry employees – and the potential massive hit to the UK’s economy if these businesses are not assisted, and speedily. 

He says:  “Many families’ livelihoods are on the verge of being destroyed.  AITO members, and many others in travel, are long-established SME businesses – which have delivered hugely over many years in terms of employment, superb customer service and significant tax take – yet which are now at severe risk of being dumped on the scrap heap of failed companies because the Government has denied travel the right to trade for the second successive – and vital – peak summer holiday season.”

Three key problems exist:

  1. The mental strain involved of existing on zero income for 17 months without proper financial support that works for this particular sector is immense; it has been, wrongly, completely ignored by Government to date. 
  2. Unlike hairdressers, who’ve had up to £18,000 in Government aid to kick-start their businesses, and who start to earn, cash in hand, immediately they are permitted to trade), travel businesses don’t earn anything until their customers depart on holiday, which could be a year or more later. Yet travel businesses have been awarded a paltry £2,500 in Government aid – up to £15,500 less than the hairdresser next door which is overrun by customers delivering them an immediate cash flow boost, totally unlike the situation with travel companies, which are prevented from trading by Government. 
  3. Travel customers’ confidence to book has been destroyed by stealth – the weekly ‘will they, won’t they?’ charade run on Twitter by Ministers. Will any serious holiday destinations be given the desperately-needed green for go traffic light designation, or will it again be distant islands that many have never heard of, couldn’t place on a map and which simply are NOT holiday destinations?  Will more countries be placed in the newly-created amber-plus category?  What about red? 

The Government goes from zero control (eg with the Delta, formerly Indian, variant, when the UK’s borders were left open to all comers for too long), and now with the USA (yesterday’s announcement) seemingly depending on its trade deal agenda, to over-the-top control, as with France.  The Beta variant reported on the Indian Ocean French island of Réunion, which is 9,650 km/6,000 miles from mainland France, means that the amber-plus category for mainland France, just 20 miles/32 km from the UK, makes no sense whatever for holidaymakers going to mainland France.  Thousands of lorries drive through France weekly and travel into the UK without checks or controls.  Why the huge differential in rules – one for lorry drivers, and the absolute opposite for holidaymakers?

“Added together, it all makes for a pretty big kick in the teeth for the entire travel sector”, states Rowles.

He continues:  “The Global Travel Taskforce review gives Government a key opportunity to redress these key issues and, finally, to support the safe return of international travel.  NOW is the last opportunity to save our travel companies from collapse, and to protect other linked sectors such as inbound travel and the UK’s retail industry, alongside the huge tax take delivered by outbound travel.  We will repay such support in bucket loads over decades to come – we are worth saving!

“AITO backs ABTA and other bodies in calling for:

“(1) an additional check point in August (31st July to 1st October is simply too big a gap to allow for the many changes that will occur in the interim);

“(2) testing regimes to be cheaper and more proportionate to risk; (3) many more key holiday countries to be added to the green list; they are safe, have caught up with the UK’s vaccine roll-out, and preventing holidays to these countries makes no sense;

“(4) mutual recognition of vaccination certification.

“Finally, Ministers, please do both Parliament and the travel industry the courtesy of making a proper presentation of next steps – tweeting is simply inappropriate when such important issues are concerned.”

Press:  Issued on behalf of AITO, the Specialist Travel Association (www.aito.com) by Travel PR.