Scottish government grant funding for the country’s retail travel agents is just a first step towards supporting the travel industry as a whole, the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association has said.
President Joanne Dooey said while the SPAA welcomed the announcement on Wednesday (27 January) of grants of up to £25,000 for agents, there remained significant gaps in support for travel businesses.
Dooey raised the plight of many homeworkers and self-employed travel professionals, who currently do not qualify for support, and vowed to continue with its vocal lobbying efforts.
"Our concerted lobbying efforts have brought the plight of travel agents to the Scottish and UK governments’ attention," said Dooey after members marched on Holyrood late last year.
"We are pleased the support fund for travel agents means our leisure and business agents with physical premises who have had sizeable ongoing running costs will now be contacted by their local council regarding grant funding.
"However, for the industry as a whole, this is just a first step. The travel sector has a unique structure which includes an army of homeworkers. Not all of these homeworkers have been able to access self-employment grants, and some remain in serious financial difficultly.
"We are continuing to engage with both governments for homeworkers and travel agency directors who have maybe ‘fallen through the cracks’ to help them to gain some financial support."
Dooey said the support announced on Wednesday did, though, recognise the "specific challenges" the travel sector has faced since March 2020.
"We will continue to take an active role in securing further funding for the travel sector, especially following the announcement yesterday that hotel quarantine is to be introduced," said Dooey.
"Travel agents are now effectively facing another year with no income. Much of their income from 2019 was refunded during 2020, and income was virtually zero for many in 2020, with much of that being refunded too.
"Now they face a further year when Scots are actively being told, if not instructed, by their government, not to travel abroad.
"We remain committed to public health as a priority, and continue to repeat our message that the whole of the travel sector needs a road map out of this devastating position for our industry."