Imagine writing to someone and not hearing back for three months. You would likely conclude the person in question wasn’t much bothered about what you had to say.
That’s what happened when I wrote to business secretary Alok Sharma back in March outlining my concerns that the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic poses a real risk travel shops on our high streets will become a thing of the past.
In late June, I eventually got an – albeit thin – reply from a junior minister. This amounted to the government pointing to their support package and saying: "We are closely monitoring the impact on the travel industry."
Every one of our members in retail travel will tell you this is way short of what’s needed – action is key for this hugely important sector of our economy. Warm words don’t do justice to the gravity of the situation.
From where I stand, it looks as though the government has its fingers in its ears over the plight of our travel trade, which has been so badly hit by Covid-19.
We’ve seen Hays Travel put hundreds of workers onto zero-hours contracts, while cutting hours of many more staff, and Tui announcing job cuts across its global network.
Prior to Covid, Hays had been on an upward trajectory, claiming never to have made a single worker redundant in 40 years of trading – that’s the way we want to keep it.
Therefore, with travel businesses losing money hand over fist, we need to know the plan for the future of our travel trade, which is valued by many millions of people around our country.
If the government doesn’t have a plan, I’m more than happy to work with ministers who badly need to focus, roll up their sleeves, and do everything possible to protect jobs and the wellbeing of the sector and our members.
The past 12 months have seen the collapse of both Flybe and Thomas Cook due to a lack of government action.
Thomas Cook’s demise alone cost our taxpayers more than £150 million – a needless loss of a great British company, with Boris Johnson citing "moral hazard" as overseas governments stood ready to step in.
Now, with shoppers eager to return to our high streets and desperate to book holidays despite the ongoing fiasco over air bridges and quarantine, it’s vital we learn the lessons of the recent past.
I will continue pressing the matter with the powers that be in Whitehall. The health implications of Covid-19 have been grave, but now we must leave no stone unturned in protecting the economic wellbeing of our travel trade sector and our members.
As we begin the march to a post-Covid future for all, we must save our high-street travel shops.
Manuel Cortes is general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, an independent trade union for the transport and travel trade industries.