As we approach the end of July and enter August, the peak-season for summer holidays, it is now abundantly clear that the travel industry is set on a recovery pathway from Covid-19 that is longer than that faced by many other economic sectors, and which will be bumpy with peaks and troughs along the way.
It is also clear the industry will need tailored support from government to save jobs and businesses, and it is therefore very welcome that TTG has launched its #SaveTravel campaign to raise awareness and campaign for help. Abta is very glad to lend our full support.
Since the start of this crisis Abta has been in a constant dialogue with Ministers and officials across the many departments that influence decisions affecting the travel industry, as well as MPs across parliament.
We launched our Save Future Travel campaign in April, which saw 25,500 emails sent to MPs by those working in travel and consumers, raising awareness across parliament and government of the challenges the industry faces. The campaign has been very useful in terms of informing MPs about what is happening, and why, and in reducing the level of criticism that the industry has faced during what has been a very difficult time for relations between travel companies and our valued customers.
Nonetheless, I am fully on board with the level of frustration across the industry, and all sectors within travel, around the lack of specific support and attention the sector has received to date. It is now time for the government to step up – and supporting #SaveTravel is a useful way to demonstrate the strength of the industry’s feeling, and the urgency of support measures.
Looking at the steps the industry needs from government, there are some immediate policy issues that we need to see addressed as an absolute priority, including a regional approach to FCO travel advice and government quarantine rules.
If the UK is to reopen routes to many important trade and tourism partners, including the US and other larger countries, it will be vital that measures that enable a more targeted approach are adopted, as they are already in other countries including the Netherlands. There is also a need for more transparency as to how decisions are being taken, enabling businesses and consumers to take more informed decisions.
We also need support to reopen those parts of the industry, including business travel, cruise, school travel and coach travel, which remain effectively closed or are in the very early days of recovery. Abta is working proactively behind the scenes on many of those, often with other stakeholders and associations in the industry, to deliver positive outcomes.
The government must also recognise that the one-size-fits all model, which was a necessity in the early days of Covid-19 to get support schemes in place quickly, and which has provided valuable help to many businesses in terms of the furlough scheme, business rates support and one-off grants, has now run its course.
There is a clear economic case for a more tailored approach during the next phase of economic recovery, and Abta is specifically asking the government to take the following steps, within which there is much common ground with #SaveTravel’s asks too:
We saw a couple of weeks ago the government finally confirm their support for Atol related Refund Credit Notes. This was overdue, of course it was, but the additional confidence they can offer consumers is vital now, especially as we have seen the first moves backwards in terms of destination openings. The pandemic is far from over, so being able to demonstrate the clear benefits of booking a package holiday to consumers is a welcome step. In addition, we have also had a helpful clarification from HMRC that those within the TOMS VAT scheme can benefit from the domestic VAT cut announced recently, using the existing transport scheme. That might not be the biggest win, but it does show government willingness to be responsive to our asks.
Abta has sought to be open and collaborative throughout this crisis, inviting other associations and parts of the industry into the Save Future Travel campaign, and involving those organisations in joint letter writing campaigns and other efforts, as well as coordinating recently a cross-Whitehall roundtable for the organised travel sector with our “home department”, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
The meeting provided an excellent opportunity to get our messages across, promoting a coherent and joined up approach, which is a platform we hope to build upon. We have also spent a lot of time doing the unglamorous but vitally important job of building the evidence case and base for action behind the scenes with officials.
With that in mind, we are this week launching our latest Member Survey to gather the latest evidence from Members on their situation and what is happening across the various parts of the travel sector. For the members reading this, I cannot stress enough how important it is that you support this work, and thank you in advance for the time you are taking to provide us with the vital ammunition we need to make the industry’s case.
It has never been more important to show a united front, and I hope we can all continue to work together across the travel industry in the days and weeks ahead to deliver a loud and clear message those in Westminster, as well as the devolved institutions across the UK, that our industry needs, and is deserving of, support.
I urge everyone to support TTG’s efforts and to get behind the #SaveTravel campaign.