In these extraordinary times, there’s little denying travel is among the sectors bearing the brunt of the coronavirus crisis.
Cruise lines around the world have suspended operations, a number of countries have closed their borders and airlines have axed thousands of flights (p6).
But as the sector grapples with the unfolding pandemic, it’s worth noting there are positives.
First was the Budget. The chancellor unveiled a series of measures offering relief to small businesses (benefiting numerous independent travel agencies) with the temporary abolition of business rates for SMEs and a move to refund statutory sick pay for employees forced to take self-isolation (p7).
True, the Budget could have gone further – the government’s refusal to reduce APD angered many, while some agents suggest the threshold for the removal of business rates is too low, meaning fewer businesses may benefit than initially hoped.
But given the current situation, any relief is helpful. And it is heartening to see the government acknowledge the challenges facing business.
Across travel, others have also rallied to support the trade – and each other. Cruise lines, airlines and operators are all offering flexible booking options in a bid to reassure worried customers (p10).
Meanwhile, Abta LifeLine is also reminding the industry it is ready to support those in need, revealing it has already received applications from agents forced to work fewer hours amid the virus outbreak (p8).
“It’s going to be a tough period ahead,” says Der Touristik UK’s Derek Jones (p8). “We need to take this crisis very seriously.”
But there will be light at the end of the tunnel, he points out. “The storm will pass and our customers will return.”
The question is, how long will that take?