MPs across the UK received thousands emails on the first day of Abta’s Save Future Travel Campaign, which is calling for the government to do more to save travel industry jobs and protect customers’ cash.
The association’s call for grassroots political action by travel and tourism businesses, their staff, and supporters of the sector, saw 13,500 emails sent to ministers, including 4,000 from supporters, which Abta said demonstrated the "breadth and depth of concern" and the level of frustration within travel at the lack of government action so far.
Those wishing to assist the campaign, which is formally backed by more than 20 travel companies including agents, operators and cruise lines, can visit savefuturetravel.co.uk to petition their local MP, with emails so far having reached 647 of the UK’s 650.
Abta is asking the government to amend the Package Travel Regulations (PTRs) to allow "normally viable and healthy businesses" to issue credit notes rather than cash refunds while protecting the customer’s right to receive that refund.
Under the PTRs, the UK’s interpretation of the EU Package Travel Directive (PTD), refunds should be paid to consumers within 14 days if part of a travel package cannot be provided.
The sector is arguing that while these rules work when it is just one destination or travel provider that is affected by a change in Foreign Office advice or an insolvency, the regulations were not designed when the whole travel industry is forced to shut down to a major global event, such as the coronavirus pandemic.
The European Commission last month amended its guidance on the PTD, stating customers should be encouraged to accept credit notes so long as they can ask for a full refund at a later date, and that any credit notes should be covered by insolvency protection.
This has allowed several European countries, including France, Germany and Spain, to make temporary changes to their own regulations, but the UK is yet to follow their example. It is understood Abta and the CAA, which operates the Atol scheme, are broadly aligned on any such objective, but the matter now rests with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Abta has produced a template letter, which can be used by anyone and sets out how the association proposes to safeguards thousands of travel sector jobs. It is also promoting the #SaveFutureTravel hashtag across several social networks, including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
“We’ve seen a phenomenal response to our call to action among the industry, thank you to everyone who has got involved so far," said Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer. "The lack of government action and guidance to date on refunds defies logic and has left consumers in no-man’s land, and the situation is worsening.
"We need to keep up the momentum at a crucial time. We need everyone not only to get behind the campaign, but to encourage friends and family to support it too. MPs will listen to their constituents, but they need to hear your voice. If you haven’t done so already, people email your MP via www.savefuturetravel.co.uk and ask others to do the same.”
Supporters include Midcounties Co-operative Travel, Barrhead Travel and Kuoni.
Alistair Rowland, Midcounties Co-op chief retail officer and Abta chair, said: “Midcounties Co-op Travel is delighted to support such a great initiative. MPs in their constituencies will hear from sustainable businesses and their supply chain, and customers, how much they’re needed in their communities and [how] a small change in legislation will mean a big difference to the industry’s future. We all need to support Save Future Travel."
Jacqueline Dobson, Barrhead Travel president, said: “Barrhead Travel gladly welcomes the latest campaign from Abta which highlights some of the biggest challenges the travel industry faces right now as global tourism comes to a standstill. Now more than ever, the travel industry needs to stand together and this campaign is indicative of the unity that it brings. Travel is more than just a business for many of us; it is a significant part of our lives both professionally and personally and our message needs to be heard – the UK government must do whatever it takes to save future travel.”
Rachel O’Reilly, Kuoni head of communications, said: “Our staff have welcomed the Abta campaign and many of our team have used the microsite today to write to their local MPs. Kuoni is a company that prides itself on customer service, so we want to help customers through this crisis and protect their money while at the same time we all want travel businesses to survive this awful situation and thrive in the future. Travel is life changing and life defining, it’s full of people who care passionately about people and places and we will do whatever it takes to urge the government to protect jobs in the travel industry and people’s livelihoods.”