Travel firms have been “living on thin air for over a year”, the chief executive of Abta has told the Transport Select Committee – reiterating calls for sector support as the industry readies itself for the restart of international travel.
Speaking alongside industry leaders to assess the Global Travel Taskforce (GTT) report on Wednesday (14 April), Mark Tanzer said he believed there was “still an enormous amount of work” to be done following its publication last week to “operationalise” policies and prepare travel businesses for 17 May.
“I can’t emphasis enough the urgency of pushing forward with this and the state of the industry, which has been in suspension for over a year now,” he told the committee.
“The fact that we’ve gone through Easter with travel being illegal means there’s even more pressure on the summer season. A week lost is vital to a lot of members who could be teetering on the brink. We welcome the report – there are some good things in it which we’ve called for – but still an awful lot of work to be done.”
Asked about the GTT report’s creation and consultation with industry, Tanzer said Abta was part of a “a large audience who were able to give our views” but that when it came to finalising and writing the report “government has decided to do what government has decided to do”.
He added: “I don’t feel particular ownership over the conclusions of the taskforce. I felt there could have been a deeper level of engagement given the timeframe.”
Under the government’s planned traffic light system, those returning from “amber” destinations must quarantine for 10 days and take a pre-departure test, a PCR test on day two and day eight when they return – with the option for an early release test on day five.
Tanzer said he saw amber as “such a big step up from green”.
“The amber category is everything in this report. Amber, as it’s described at the moment, is a light red – it is a big deterrent to people and green to amber is a big step up.
“We’ve found is that once [a country] is put into a higher risk category it tends to stick there… that decision [moving from green to amber] is really critical for how much confidence consumers will have in the book process.”
He told the committee the industry wanted to avoid the “stop-start” nature of travel corridors in 2020 – with ample length of time given to move countries on the government’s “green watch list”
“If a country is on the green watch list [consumers] will definitely take that into account when they make their booking."
Asked how concerned he would be if the government’s green list consisted of only a few countries with extensive vaccine rollouts, Tanzer said Abta wanted to see a list “as expansive as possible”.
“If we err on the side of caution you will have some very devastating effects on the travel and aviation sector,” he said, urging minister to “get that balance right” between public health and supporting travellers and the industry.