Boris Johnson must “set out a way forward” for the travel industry and outline sector-specific support during his speech next week detailing a timeline for easing lockdown restrictions.
That was the message from the Save Future Travel Coalition as new hotel quarantine measures for arrivals into the UK from certain countries came into force on Monday (15 February).
The group of 12 travel trade organisations said it was “vital” government worked with the industry to develop a roadmap to reopen travel, and argued that while the vaccine roll-out was progressing well, travel firms “simply cannot afford to wait” until everyone in the UK was vaccinated before people start to travel again, “otherwise insolvencies and redundancies will be inevitable”.
A "risk-based approach" to travel including the use of vaccine certificates and passenger testing, is being called for.
Data from the Office of National Statistics showed the economic output of travel agents and tour operators fell by 86% in December 2020 compared to February 2021 – with the situation worsening with international travel now illegal for most purposes.
On the first day of February half-term across most of the country, traditionally one of the busiest weeks for winter holidays, Abta and Seasonal Businesses in Travel (Sbit) estimate that in a normal year around 500,000 people would be heading off to the slopes over the school break.
Half-term represents around 15% of Abta ski members’ total bookings for the winter season. Wintersports specialists usually attract 40% of their annual revenues during this time.
“This year, that revenue will be lost,” said Abta, with the industry “effectively closed” due to restrictions.
Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “In a week’s time the prime minister is due to update the nation on a route out of lockdown. That must include a way forward for the travel industry to ensure that people are able to take an overseas holiday this summer.
“We completely understand the need for the government to bring in temporary restrictions, like the additional measures around quarantine being brought in today, but we also need a route out of this crisis and some tailored financial support to help businesses get through what will be very difficult months ahead for the sector.
“Travel is vital for the economy. It has been a powerhouse of economic growth and employment. In normal times travel contributes £80 billion to the UK economy and supports close to one million jobs. It also underpins UK aviation and trading routes, with travel agents and tour operators putting the passengers on the planes.”
Sbit director Charles Owen added: “The UK may be in its third lockdown but, for Sbit members, this is still their first lockdown which started 11 months ago. In March 2020, we completed an emergency repatriation of 40,000 guests and staff back to the UK, and then set about refunding or rebooking holidays for hundreds of thousands more guests. With this winter season all but cancelled, virtually no new bookings and the outlook uncertain, this is an industry on its knees financially.
“There is huge demand for ski holidays in the 2021-22 ski season but our members need financial support from the chancellor now, to continue trading and delivering the future holidays that our guests love.”