Advantage Travel Partnership has taken to TV to express its frustration and anger with the government’s lack of communication over travel advice.
Chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said and leisure director Kelly Cookes both voiced their concern on Wednesday morning.
Lo Bue-Said told BBC Breakfast the government’s announcement about Spain on Saturday had taken the industry by surprise and had a devastating impact.
“Agents in our industry are in despair, we are in such desperate times. The real frustration also is that there’s a real lack of understanding, we believe, from the government in terms of how our industry operates, how we service customers and the support we need ongoing, because it’s four months without any income plus all the refunds we’ve had to work through. Our industry is at breaking point yet again.”
Saturday’s announcement had put the brakes on a recovery, she said.
“As soon as air bridges came into force a couple of weeks ago, we absolutely saw a huge spike in demand for this summer. Sales week on week were over 30% up for this summer, so a real degree of confidence back in the market and for customers as well. Since the weekend, that’s fallen off a cliff.
“Unfortunately we do not get any advance notice, no advance communication, consultation and we are desperately trying to help our customers. We have many fantastic travel agents all over the country that have worked tirelessly in the last four months with no income whatsoever trying to help their customers."
Kelly Cookes, Advantage leisure director, told CNN: “What’s difficult is when we receive the information at the same time as everybody else and that makes it incredibly difficult to be able to plan for the safe return of customers and also for customers that haven’t yet travelled; so it’s incredibly difficult for us to give customer service and plan for what the rest of the summer might look like.”
She said making Spain off-limits would undoubtedly produce a ripple effect amidst already low consumer confidence.
“What we’d like to see is more collaboration in advance of these communications going out, that allows us to plan and look after customers better. At the moment we’re just finding out at the same time as everybody else.
“Making a decision about travel crosses over a number of government departments. What we’d really like is an agreed process whereby if countries do need to be taken off that list, we can work collaboratively to make that a little bit smoother.”
“We’d like more of a regional approach, so rather than taking whole countries off the list, being able to look at the different parts of those countries and perhaps leave some of them still open to travellers.”