Abta has said there is "widespread agreement" government must "rethink its approach" to how it supports the UK’s travel industry, and more specifically, its retail travel agents.
That was the view of the association’s director of public affairs, Luke Petherbridge, after MPs this week rejected calls from the sector for greater support while international travel remains subdued.
More than 100,000 backed a petition an Abta petition for sector-specific support for agents, prompting a Commons debate on the issue on Monday evening (24 May).
The scope and tone of the debate was set by Conservative MP Nick Fletcher, who highlighted how agents had been placed in a "precarious position" owing to the commission structure of travel sales.
He also told members about how agents had been forced to pay refunds from their own pockets while they waited for cash from suppliers to filter back down to frontline sellers, and how agents had been unable to fully utilise the furlough scheme given their statutory requirements to rebook and refund clients.
However, wealth and social care minister Jo Churchill dismissed travel’s pleas, citing support from the Treasury and the fact there would continue to be ongoing support for businesses affected by the pandemic into the summer.
Prior to the debate, Abta urged travel businesses to lobby their local representatives and tell them their stories of Covid hardship, with the association later praising the extent and breadth of MPs understanding of the issues under discussion.
"Abta and the industry engaged proactively with MPs before the debate, and it was welcome that almost every speaker spoke in support of tailored assistance for travel companies," said Petherbridge.
"Of course, we know there is support across all parties for a cautious and risk-based approach to restart, which was also reflected in the interventions. However, there was widespread agreement that the government needs to rethink its approach, as the domestic unlocking progresses, and to bring forward tailored financial support for travel companies that reflects the constraints the government is imposing on trade.
"Abta is following up with speakers and will continue to engage with MPs to ensure this stays on the government’s agenda."