The government has rejected calls from the travel sector for an extension to the furlough scheme, and warned further "bespoke" sector-specific financial support would only come "as a last resort".
It comes after a petition, launched by Encounters Travel sales manager Anthony Horrobin and now signed by more than 50,000 people, achieved enough signatures to warrant a response from the government.
Should the petition, which will remain open through to 1 March 2021, yet achieve 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for a debate in parliament.
Horrobin’s petition states: "While many industries are now able to trade either fully or partially, the travel industry is being disproportionately affected by travel restrictions and quarantines being imposed by the government.
"Many people have spent their lives working in the industry, and once all this is over, those skilled employees will be once again required to plan and take the nation on holiday. While restrictions remain in place, imposed by the government, we cannot trade fully or make a recovery."
The Treasury on Tuesday (29 September) responded to Horrobin’s petition, stating the government did recognise "the challenging times" facing the travel industry as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and acknowledged the importance of the sector to the UK economy.
However, the response goes on to detail out the broader support the government has laid on for all businesses, rather than engage with the challenges facing travel specifically, and appears to shut the door on any tailored support for any sector building on the furlough scheme.
"The government’s judgement has been that it would be extremely challenging to extend the CJRS [Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme] for specific sectors in a fair and deliverable way, and to do so may not be the most effective or sensible means by which to provide longer-term support for those sectors most affected by Covid-19," read the Treasury’s response.
"It would also be difficult to target the CJRS at specific sectors without creating distortions, particularly since many firms work across multiple sectors. There are other schemes, including the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, that can provide support to firms in the travel industry.
"Businesses in the travel industry will also be able to claim under the [newly announced] Job Support Scheme if they meet the eligibility criteria. More guidance will be published shortly."
The Treasury added: "If firms across the most affected sectors find themselves in severe and urgent financial difficulties as a result of Covid-19, even following the government‘s cross-economy wage and financial interventions, then the government remains open to discussions about bespoke financial support but only as a last resort.
"Any intervention would need to be on terms appropriate to protect the interests of taxpayers."
Horrobin said he felt there was "nothing much of great significance" in the Treasury’s response, but added he thought the process – now backed by more than 50,000 people – had been "a good exercise in getting the industry talking".