Travel businesses “cannot wait to see what may happen in the months to come”, Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer has said.
The association on Tuesday (10 March) urged the government to draw up a support plan for the country’s travel and tourism sector.
Abta’s call for “extraordinary support measures” comes ahead of new chancellor Rishi Sunak’s first budget on Wednesday (11 March).
Last week, Abta met with the tourism minister to discuss the issue, and is surveying members to assess the business impact of the worsening coronavirus crisis.
“As the outbreak of coronavirus develops, travel businesses are under increasing pressure,” said Tanzer.
“They cannot wait to see what may happen in the months to come, [so] we are asking the government to act now in taking steps to protect them.
“Among the travelling public, our priority remains to be proactive in providing up-to-date, fact-based information and to give perspective so they can make informed decisions.
“We are also explaining the protections that are in place if they’re no longer able to travel.”
In a letter to prime minister Boris Johnson ahead of the budget, Abta has asked the government to consider steps to protect healthy businesses from any undue financial distress.
Proposed measures include bridging loans; business rate relief; extensions to VAT and PAYE deadlines, and reliefs; and a six-month Air Passenger Duty “holiday”.
Meanwhile, Abta said its members were more and more questions from customers concerned about their travel plans, and in light of increasingly stringent Foreign Office travel advice affecting travel to mainland China, Italy and parts of South Korea.
“Members have also been busy liaising with customers with imminent package holidays to offer alternative arrangements,” said Abta.
Moreover, 88% of members surveyed last week said they were receiving enquiries from consumers due to travel to areas “unaffected by the coronavirus outbreak”.
Abta says it has contributed to more than 400 pieces of media coverage of the coronavirus crisis since the end of January, reaching more than 200 million viewers, listeners and readers.
It will on Tuesday host a conference call with members to provide an update on the coronavirus situation, and address any questions. A recording of the call will be made available to members on Wednesday (11 March) at abta.com/coronavirusguidance.
UKinbound, the trade body representing more 400 British tourism businesses, has also written to the government to demand concessions and reliefs owing to the coronavirus crisis, warning there was a real risk businesses “could go under” if the situation deteriorates further.
The organisation has contacted secretary of state of the government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, and tourism minister Nigel Huddleston MP to reiterate its plea for financial help for the tourism and hospitality industry to “mitigate the impact of Covid-19”.
Ahead of Wednesday’s budget, UKInbound is seeking: a pause on business rates for a minimum of three months, and any quarantined areas to have business rates abolished for the period of non-trading; a delay on payment of taxes such as VAT and PAYE to ease cash flow; and low or interest-free loans to be made available to cover any periods where trading is disrupted.
Chief executive Joss Croft said: “This is a very stressful and worrying time for the UK tourism industry and travel and tourism worldwide.
“A lot of our members have been massively impacted by Covid-19, and the real worry is that businesses could go under if this situation continues as there are minimal bookings for the normally busy spring and summer months.
“We are hoping government will do the right thing in the budget this week and provide financial support for businesses that are currently struggling with cash flow and business payments in order to tide them over until this crisis has abated.
“We also continue to urge our members to be as lenient as possible with each other with regards to their cancellation policies, as we know that in the coming months there will be a huge pent-up demand for travel to the UK.”