Abta has criticised transport secretary Grant Shapps for his "ill-judged and ill-informed" comments on travel agents made at a government press conference on Friday (7 May).
During the address, Shapps set out how countries would be categorised under the UK government’s new traffic light system, revealing an initial "green list" of just 12 countries.
Press by Sky News’ Paul Kelso on travel companies’ perceived track record during the Covid crisis, and how they would interpret the new rules, Shapps made reference to businesses he described as "what people would have called travel agents, perhaps in the past" sparking ire from agents across the UK.
Many took to social media to condemn the transport secretary’s comments, and called on industry bodies such as Abta to set him straight.
Abta on Monday (10 May) confirmed it was in contact with the government over Shapps’ comments and how they could be interpreted as implying traditional travel agents are a thing of the past.
"These were ill-judged and ill-informed comments, which simply do not align with the facts," said Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer. "Travel agents are very much here and make a vital contribution to both the UK economy and to consumer confidence in travel.
"We have also highlighted our recent research which shows more consumers than ever plan to book their next holiday with a travel professional, some 28% more now than before the pandemic, showing the value which the public places on their guidance and expertise."
Abta added in a statement it had also provided further "detailed feedback" on the green list, underlining the importance of adding more countries at the next review while also calling for further work on the cost and availability of testing, and renewing its call for ongoing tailored financial support for travel businesses.