There’s not been a lot of good news for travel coming from the government this year (PSD2, GDPR and PTR delays, anyone?), but Monday’s Autumn Budget was a pleasant – and most welcome – surprise.
“A small victory for travel and tourism” was how one accountancy firm put it because, despite the government’s refusal to reduce APD (although the tax on short-haul flights has at least been frozen), the budget offered high-street travel agents some significant reasons to be cheerful (p5).
Key for retail agencies are both the cut in business rates and the £675 million Future High Streets Fund, designed to “support local areas” and make high streets “fit for the future”.
We have been here before, notably in 2011 when David Cameron tasked retail guru Mary Portas with saving the traditional high street. Back then the government faced allegations of hypocrisy: claiming to support the high street while signing off out-of-town shopping centres, something Portas blamed for driving consumer footfall away from towns.
Today, though, it is online shopping that poses the greater threat. So the promise of a tax on online tech giants in conjunction with the Future High Streets Fund suggests the government is more serious about its support this time around.
Perhaps most significant of all is that this budget is designed to give the majority of consumers more money in their pockets. And an increase in discretionary spend will be key as the shadow of Brexit looms large over the peaks period.
Given the chancellor has already indicated this budget may be entirely redundant if the UK ends up in a no-deal position, any jubilation for these measures should however be deferred until at least December 14 (widely accepted as the last practical date for a Brexit deal to be struck).
But in this era of uncertainty, any positive news should be welcomed. Let’s take the cheerfulness where we can.