The government has confirmed retail travel agents are eligible for Localised Restrictions Support Grants (LSRGs), a move Abta hopes will end the "postcode lottery" some agents experienced when seeking support during the previous Covid lockdown.
New government guidance explicitly references retail travel agents as being among businesses required by law to close in areas of England subject to Tier 4 Covid lockdown restrictions, which came into law on Wednesday (6 January).
"The previous exclusion of travel agents from the regulations had resulted in agents being denied much needed funding from local authorities under the LRSG scheme," said Abta in a statement.
"This confirmation from government is a welcome step in ensuring agents in England are eligible for grant support under the LSRG regime."
Abta said through its lobbying efforts, it had already been able to establish that the highest levels of Covid restrictions set out by the UK’s devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland would apply to retail travel agents.
However, it said the UK government had previously failed to provide such clarity for businesses in England.
"Abta has been having ongoing discussions with officials in the Westminster government to argue that this approach must be matched in England," said the association.
"As part of this effort, we recently surveyed travel agent members, working with our partners in the Save Future Travel coalition, to produce the evidence required to demonstrate retail travel agents are dependent on in-person trade."
With all areas of England under Tier 4 restrictions for the foreseeable future, it means all retail travel businesses should be able to seek LSRG support.
Luke Petherbridge, Abta’s director of public affairs, said securing grant funding for travel businesses has been a key focus of Abta’s work in recent months.
"The confirmation from the UK government today builds on actions by the devolved administrations on this matter, and should bring an end to the post code lottery of grants experienced by agents.
"We are pleased the government has listened to our calls for clarification and acted on it. We also believe it should mean travel agents are eligible for the retail, hospitality and leisure businesses grants, although we are still awaiting the specific government guidance on this."
Petherbridge, though, said Abta would continue to fight for sector-specific support from government for the travel industry.
"While accessing the grant schemes will provide some help to struggling businesses, these are related to the lockdown and stay at home orders," said Petherbridge.
"We have not yet seen sector-specific support to take account of the unique challenges the travel industry has faced throughout the last ten months, including frequent changes to travel corridors, and restrictions on many destinations across the globe through Foreign Office travel advice, which have seriously affected the ability of businesses to trade.
"Abta will continue to push for tailored support, including the urgency of getting financial help to those who have not been able to access existing support mechanisms, such as directors of limited companies, and the many travel businesses that do not have rateable values."