Abta has renewed its call for urgent sector-specific support for travel, warning the coronavirus pandemic – and government measures to mitigate its effects – risks more than 90,000 travel jobs.
The association’s latest member survey found 20% of roles in the outbound travel sector, as many as 39,000, have already been lost or placed at risk – rising to in excess of 90,000 when factoring supply chains into the equation.
The situation is also forecast to get worse over the coming months with many businesses – more than three-quarters, according to Abta – yet to enter into redundancy consultations with staff.
Abta has written to chancellor Rishi Sunak setting out a new Save Future Travel plan, which aims to rebuild consumer confidence, seek tailored support for the sector, and save jobs at a "critical point" for the sector with the furlough scheme set to be wound down at the end of October.
According to Abta, despite nine in ten businesses in travel tapping the government’s job retention scheme, 65% have already had to make redundancies, or have started the consultation process.
However, four in ten businesses believe travel can return to 2019 levels by 2022 "if offered the right support by government".
If it doesn’t, 83% of travel companies believe a lack of action will have a serious or critical impact on their business; 96% said a second economic shutdown would have a serious or critical impact on their ability to survive the crisis.
Mark Tanzer, Abta chief executive, said: “With the government’s stop-start measures, the restart of travel has not gone as hoped for the industry, and sadly businesses continue to be adversely affected and jobs are being lost at an alarming rate.
"Coming towards the end of the traditional period for peak booking, we have hit a critical point as existing government measures to support businesses begin to taper off, the consequence of which, according to this survey of Abta members, will be ruinous for more people’s livelihoods.
“Travel desperately needs the government in its next [spending] review to provide tailored support or tens of thousands more jobs will be lost. We have already seen well-known and respected businesses that would normally be successful falling into administration, and more are sadly set to follow unless the government can Save Future Travel.”
Abta’s plan calls for a regionalised approach to quarantine, without which the association believes it will be difficult to engage "critical trade partners" such as those in the US.
Additionally, the association says it is vital to start incentivising consumers to book holidays, and has called for an Air Passenger Duty holiday covering summer 2021 to help cut prices.
Abta’s five-point Save Future Travel plan includes:
1. Regionalise quarantine – moving to a regionalised quarantine and Foreign Office travel advice policy will provide additional certainty for businesses and consumers;
2. Introduce testing – introducing a testing regime will enable travel to resume to major global trading partners and mitigate the risk of infection from high risk countries;
3. Grant an APD holiday – to boost demand for travel, including summer holidays in 2021;
4. Provide recovery grants and other business support measures – travel agents, the vast majority of whom are SMEs, receive the majority of their income through commission that is paid on the departure, so these businesses will need support to get them through to the next major travel period next Easter. The government can support these businesses by issuing another round of grants, based on those offered to retail, hospitality, and leisure businesses earlier in the crisis, and extending other business support measures into 2021/22;
5. Give ongoing salary support – with the furlough scheme drawing to a close at the end of October, the government should consider extending support for businesses that have not seen a significant recovery in revenues, as has happened elsewhere, such as Australia. Targeting salary support where it is needed until March 2021 would reduce the cost to the Treasury and could preserve tens of thousands of jobs in travel.