The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA) has slammed first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s comments urging Scots not to book overseas travel during the October school holidays.
SPAA vice-president Mike Tibbert said the move was "unnecessary, wholly gratuitous, and extremely damaging for the Scottish travel industry".
"This story ends with our members having had no 2020 income," Tibbert warned in a strongly worded rebuke issued on Tuesday afternoon (22 September).
Sturgeon’s comments came in a Scottish parliament address, in which she set out a range of new measures to combat the spread of coronavirus in Scotland.
"Please think of the October break as an opportunity to further limit social interaction," said Sturgeon. "And, given this is a global pandemic, please do not book travel overseas for the October break if it is not essential."
Tibbert, though, said: "This year has been catastrophic for travel agents and the entire travel sector, and today’s comments could well be the final nail in its coffin.
“It’s utterly short-sighted to consider that this story ends with our members having had no 2020 income, but the stark facts are that, without immediate and targeted stimulus for the travel sector, Scotland will lose its global connectivity as airlines cut routes.
"It’s no idle warning. It is probable, that loss of connections would cause irreversible long-term damage to our whole economy."
Tibbert added Scotland’s entire travel sector was in "real and immediate jeopardy".
"This is absolutely no exaggeration," he said.
"Yet there appears to be no support either at ground or strategic level to prevent this. Indeed, we seem to have government announcements actively designed to destroy travel jobs and the whole industry when there are destinations which it is safe to travel to such as Turkey.
"It’s clear that the financial model of the travel industry is neither understood nor differentiated from the domestic hospitality and tourism sector.
"Travel agents have had virtually no income at all in 2020, as, even for holidays booked prior to the initial lockdown, travel agents will have had no income at the time of booking.
"Many have had negative income due to the level of refunds and the credit card charges they have been obliged to process; some of these before they were refunded by the airline or travel operator. Increased job losses are on the horizon for the whole sector.”