TTG Media chief executive Daniel Pearce has told the BBC there is “nothing to stop consumers booking travel”, as the industry reacted to reports the international holiday ban could be extended until July.
Pearce told BBC News: “There is nothing to stop people booking travel and they will be well protected if they book through a travel agent. There is every opportunity for people to be booking their holidays.”
Pearce disputed the idea that the travel ban was being extended. “It’s not. The Travel Taskforce will report on 12 April. As things stand, there is no international travel until 17 May at the earliest.
“The legislation being introduced allows for this £5,000 fine and these regulations to run until the end of June, but they could still be rescinded earlier, so there is an opportunity for people to be planning their summer holidays.”
However, he acknowledged headlines highlighting fines could hamper travel’s restart.
“It is a sledgehammer that is creating probably unhelpful headlines for an industry that is already really under the cosh,” he said.
Other commentators took a similar view, with Sunvil chair Noel Josephides accusing the government of a coordinated attack on the industry.
He told The Independent: “The public has been frightened. Bookings just stopped completely. It does lead us to feel that this has been orchestrated in order to deter people from booking, which means that as an industry, we don’t know what capacity to put on.
“I believe the government must be behind it. I seems completely unnecessary… when everybody knows that travel isn’t allowed till 17 May.”
Health secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News the earliest date at which people could travel – 17 May – “has not changed”.
“The questions of whether people will be able to travel abroad this summer are going to be addressed by the Global Travel Taskforce, which is reporting around 12 April,” he said.
However, Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said said: “Today’s headlines create utter confusion again for consumers and businesses operating in the travel industry.”
She acknowledged the 17 May deadline had not changed, but added: “What has changed is the government implementing provision to extend the Coronavirus Bill so that it can, if required, legally extend illegal activity until July. Confusing?”