The travel industry must “use anger in a constructive manner” to gain the backing of more politicians on the key issues of resuming international travel and sector-specific financial support.
Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said told a Travel Technology Initiative (TTI) webinar on Thursday (17 June) the industry was in a “really dark place”, but could use its anger over current government policy constructively by taking part in events such as the Travel Day of Action on 23 June.
Lo Bue-Said said the industry’s lobbying of MPs was already “seeing some momentum” with more politicians now “positively supporting travel”.
She also noted the number of Conservative MPs who voted against the government’s decision to delay the final unlocking of Covid-19 restrictions until 19 July.
“The Travel Day of Action is an opportunity for everybody involved in the sector to use that day to lobby their MPs,” urged Lo Bue-Said.
“Get as many MPs talking to you – not just in London and the devolved governments – but in your own constituencies virtually if you can. The only way to influence government is by lobbying. It does work and it’s getting through.”
Lo Bue-Said also talked about the importance of “staying optimistic” despite the difficult times the industry is facing. “We are paying the price for the incompetence of the government – they have mismanaged their position on this,” she added.
“Europe and the US are opening up but we’ve been left standing behind. International travel is not seen as a priority [by the government] and it’s been given the blame throughout this.”
Lo Bue-Said also highlighted polling showing the majority of the British public was "not behind opening up borders", which may be influencing the government’s current stance on travel.
Martyn Sumners, executive director of Aito, spoke about the damage caused by the government’s decision to suddenly remove Portugal from the green list earlier this month.
“More bookings are being cancelled than new bookings coming in,” he said. “That’s more lost income and no chance to recover it.”
He added that the sudden Portugal decision, without using the new green watchlist category, had “caused nervousness” among consumers.
“As soon as Portugal changed on the list, bookings just fell off a cliff,” said Sumners. “As much as operators and agents want to help customers, at the moment, with destinations being so limited, it’s very difficult.
“The government keeps putting out mixed messages about you should not be travelling and that’s certainly not going to help.”
Sumners also said there would be “more casualties” in the sector if the “embargo on travel is not lifted soon”.