The government’s travel taskforce will make an announcement tomorrow (Tuesday) on the shortening of quarantine periods, but looks unlikely to grant any special financial aid to the sector after a question by TTG asked for sector-specific support.
Speaking in the House of Lords, Tory peer Lord Callanan said the taskforce was meeting today and would make announcements tomorrow (23 November).
When questioned about specific help for agents and the industry as a whole, Callanan repeatedly referred to existing financial support including furlough schemes.
He said: “We are regularly assessing Covid-19’s impact on tourism businesses. We recognise these are extremely challenging conditions for those in the sector and high street travel agents have of course been able to access the government’s comprehensive support package.”
The debate was sparked by Baroness Clark of Kilwinning in response to a question by her on the future of high street travel agents. She was speaking after TTG and ITT raised the issues with her.
She told the Lords: “In the summer, nine out of 10 holidays were either cancelled or changed and Abta said in August 90,000 jobs were at risk. That figure increased to 164,000 people by the end of October. Will the government look at a specific strategy for this sector and for sector support?”
Peers also called for a minister specifically to oversee the sector, but Callanan said: “While we have no current plans to appoint a new minister for the travel sector, the cross government global travel task force has been established to consider what steps the government will take to enable a recovery of international travel.”
Callanan said there were “many consultations with the industry and we have put in place a strong package of financial support”.
The debate continued with a question from Baroness Altmann, who said all non-essential retail had been ordered to close on 31 October, with travel agents excluded from business grants. She asked for clarification for agents, “especially as florists and pubs, who can click and collect, have qualified for support”.
Callanan replied: “I will certainly have a look at this issue…but I think the guidance is very clear and most sectors of industry have been rigorously applying it.”