Agents can’t wait any longer for fresh financial support from the government, agent campaign group Target has said.
The group on Tuesday (15 June) warned the delay to the UK’s domestic unlock, announced by prime minister Boris Johnson on Monday evening (14 June), would lead to more business closures.
Target’s plea has been echoed by the TSSA union, which said the travel industry was among those in greatest need of support after being brought to a standstill by the government’s restrictions.
However, its call for an extension of the furlough scheme through to May 2022 for agents looks set to fall on deaf ears after Johnson intimated the government had no plans to extend the furlough scheme beyond the end of September.
Additionally, Target wants the scheme to be tailored to allow agents to carry out non profit-generating tasks. It is also calling for other support, such as backdated restart grants, a one-off payment amounting to 10% of 2019 revenue for self-employed agents or those running limited companies, and one off grants to company directors excluded from the self-employed income support scheme.
All government loans to travel agencies should also be written off, Target has said.
Co-founder Graeme Brett, owner of Westoe Travel, said: "Travel agents cannot carry on any longer without new financial support. Many took the £50,000 government loan and are having to find £833 a month to repay or defer the repayments for six months and have the interest add up.
"Furlough is also coming to an end with greater financial contribution due from employers before the scheme ends in September. Many employers are having to tell staff that they will not be able to keep their jobs unless they receive immediate financial support."
Fellow co-founder, Pole Travel’s Jill Waite, said the four-week delay to lifting lockdown restrictions could be the final nail in the coffin for some businesses. "The knock-on effect will be massively reduced sales, if any, until lockdown is ended.
"Many travel agents are already doing second jobs to put food on the table. We need our trade bodies banging on the chancellor’s door 24 hours a day to save our industry."
The TSSA union, meanwhile, which represents a number of high street travel agents, said if restrictions were to continue, there needed to be "sufficient" support for businesses and individuals.
Travel restrictions continue to severely affect our travel trade, with a bespoke support package desperately needed for the travel industry," said TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes.
"Our travel industry has been brought to virtual standstill as traffic light restrictions cover most popular holiday destinations going into a second summer season of disruption."