The refunds debate might be the biggest challenge facing many travel companies right now, but another issue is also simmering away.
It’s one that will come to the boil further down the line, at the end of June, when the government’s financial support for furloughed staff is slated to end.
And with no significant surge in holiday bookings expected by then, there are many firms which have no idea how they’ll pay staff once funding ends.
“We’re treading water now, but when we go back into our shops, will we be able to afford to keep our staff and have them all there? I don’t think so, unless we get funding from banks,” Joanne Dooey, owner of Love To Travel, points out (p6).
Abta is also increasingly concerned. Head of public affairs Luke Petherbridge confirmed in the latest TTG virtual seminar the association was already in conversation with government – and it seems keen to push for “some kind of continued salary support if the government wants to avoid job losses in the long run”.
Here’s hoping ministers listen because, put bluntly, travel businesses will not survive this crisis unless they have dedicated government aid.
At the start of April, tourism minister Nigel Huddleston announced the government needed to “act now to help the tourism sector be as strong as possible when we get through this pandemic”. But he was referring to the inbound sector, rather than outbound travel (his announcement triggered a £1.3 million scheme to support inbound tourism DMOs).
The outbound travel industry is still waiting for any such support. Consumer press reports of a “£4 billion government bailout” is unlikely, industry leaders said during last week’s TTG seminar.
Outbound travel contributes £37 billion to the UK economy annually – 1.8% of GDP. But if the government doesn’t switch on to the unique needs of the outbound industry soon, many of the jobs within the sector might simply evaporate.