I’ve worked in the travel industry for almost 30 years, with experience in a variety of roles including hotel reservations, business travel and tour operations, before qualifying as a solicitor in 2009.
I took on the newly created director of industry relations position in January, with responsibilities that include managing relationships with travel industry stakeholders, Foreign Office (FCO) and destination government liaison and overseeing sustainability, operations, crisis management and health and safety in destinations.
As this crisis has unfolded, my role has cycled through all these areas, most recently in our work towards recovery. The destinations team has played a vital role as part of the Abta crisis response in working tirelessly to provide support and assistance to members and their customers.
The team has been monitoring Covid-19 for the past six months to provide members with the latest information and advice, with almost 2,000 operational bulletins issued across March and April, a four-fold increase on the same time last year.
Over the years, natural disasters and previous epidemics and pandemics have all caused significant disruption and challenges. But this time has been different. Every destination worldwide has introduced restrictions on travel, which was previously unheard of.
The overall economic contribution of UK outbound travel is very significant, and the sector supports around 500,000 jobs, so as we enter the recovery phase it is vitally important the government does all it can to support travel businesses and restart the sector while protecting public health.
We have consistently reiterated the industry’s needs to government throughout this crisis and continue our strong working relationship with the FCO and other relevant departments.
We have asked the FCO to provide an indication of the criteria they will use to decide when to lift the global advice and when to remove restrictions from individual countries. However, this can’t be addressed in isolation.
We need a holistic approach taking all interlinking matters into account – such as easing of lockdown restrictions and quarantine measures, which are introduced today – so it is critical the government adopts a strategic cross-departmental approach to recovery planning.
As the world begins to reopen to travellers, several initiatives, such as new health and safety protocols, are being introduced by destinations, hotels and transport providers, and we have been communicating these to our members via our daily Covid-19 operational bulletins.
To further support the industry and help suppliers and destinations in their post-crisis recovery plans, we are developing a supplement to complement the current Abta health and safety technical guide to assist travel providers, destination governments and suppliers. This will provide practical guidance on the measures they should consider as part of the restart process.
The guide will be published towards the end of the month, free to members via the Abta website. My role is to now look beyond the crisis to the future, and help restart a healthy and sustainable travel industry.
Susan Deer is director of industry relations at Abta.