ABTA highlights the industry’s growing frustration and anger in a new letter to BEIS
ABTA has written to officials at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), to protest at levels of grant support being made available to the retail travel industry in England, which seem at odds with those provided to other business sectors.
Restart Grants, recently announced by the Chancellor, are to be allocated to businesses based on the category they are deemed to fall into, such as non-essential retail, hospitality, leisure and personal care.
Retail travel agents fall into the first category, meaning that they are eligible for grants up to £6,000 depending on their rateable values. However, as ABTA has pointed out to BEIS, while travel agents can open from Monday, April 12, they will not receive any new income for many weeks at least. Not only is it currently illegal to travel overseas, recent government guidance stated that customers should not book overseas holidays for the time being.
Other businesses are eligible to receive grants of up to £18,000, despite being able to welcome customers and generate new income from April 12. ABTA has made clear to the BEIS that this is a growing source of frustration and anger among its members and the wider travel industry, and has asked for an explanation of the rationale behind the decision.
Luke Petherbridge, ABTA’s Director of Public Affairs, said: “It seems illogical that financial support is being funnelled towards businesses that will not only be open from April 12, but, in the case of hairdressers for example, are likely to be in very high demand from the off, while travel businesses that will continue to have significant constraints on their trade are offered lower levels of support.
“Unlike in Scotland or Northern Ireland, travel businesses in England have not received any sector-specific support in recognition of the unique circumstances our sector is in. Meanwhile, the level of business support offered by the Welsh Government has been based on revenue-loss, which has meant better comparative outcomes for many businesses. ABTA is continuing to strongly press for tailored assistance for all businesses in the travel industry in England, not least in the light of further ‘don’t book a holiday’ messages from government. In addition, we are in contact with the devolved administrations around the need to keep financial support under review, and the importance of a four-nations approach to restart.”
This year’s event will be the same online format as last year, but in 2022 it will be held in Marrakech
ABTA has announced its plans for its 2021 Travel Convention and confirmed that Marrakech will host the event in 2022.
Recognising that the travel and tourism sector will be continuing to deal with the impact of coronavirus, this year’s Convention will repeat the successful online format of last year}s, taking place in the week beginning October 11.
The 2022 Travel Convention will take place in Morocco next Spring, allowing the travel industry to experience the wonders of Marrakech, at a time when the recovery from the pandemic should be more advanced.
ABTA Chief Executive Mark Tanzer said: “The pandemic, and its impact on travel, have both continued for longer than most people originally thought. We are eager to return to our usual Convention format overseas, but we have to recognise the economic environment the industry continues to work in. Making the decision now allows delegates and sponsors to plan accordingly.
“Feedback on last year’s extended reality Convention was overwhelmingly positive, and I am confident that this year’s event will be equally engaging and stimulating. At the same time, we look forward to the industry being able to gather in the beautiful and vibrant city of Marrakech in Spring 2022, hosted by our friends, the Moroccan National Tourist Office.”
Further details of both events will be revealed in due course.
ABTA has announced that it has appointed three new directors to the ABTA board. The new directors are:
ABTA chairman, Alistair Rowland, said: “We are delighted to welcome Ruth and Garry onto the ABTA board for the first time, and to welcome Andrew on his return to the board. All three individuals have outstanding backgrounds in travel. RCL, TUI and easyJet holidays demonstrate the wide range of businesses within ABTA membership, and are essential suppliers to many other ABTA members. There has never been a more important time for different parts of the travel industry to work together behind a single organisation to carry our case to government, and to shape the future of the industry as we emerge from the pandemic.”
Stuart Leven (RCL) and Richard Sofer (TUI) are stepping down from the ABTA board.
Alistair Rowland added: “I would like to thank Stuart and Richard for their invaluable contributions to our board discussions over the recent years, as we have worked to steer ABTA members, and ABTA itself, through the biggest crisis the industry has faced.”
Ruth Marshall, managing director, RCL Cruises Ltd said: “I am delighted to join the ABTA board at such a critical time for the industry to offer my advice and leadership as we navigate the reopening of travel ahead of us. With 14 years’ experience in cruise and 20 years in travel, I look forward to sharing my broad experience and knowledge with the board.”
Garry Wilson, CEO, easyJet holidays, said: “I’m really pleased to be joining the ABTA board, an organisation which carries out consistently brilliant work representing our industry and protecting our customers, which has been particularly recognised and appreciated over the past year.
“easyJet holidays has been an ABTA member since we launched our brand-new business, and despite the challenging circumstances the whole industry has faced, we’ve grown to be one of its biggest members. So I’m really looking forward to taking on the position and working even more closely with industry colleagues. It’s a really important time as we sharpen our focus on the future of travel, building confidence and starting to take people away on their well-earned holidays once again.”
Andrew Flintham, managing director for TUI Northern Region said: “I’m delighted to be re-joining the ABTA board of directors to continue the great work the team have delivered in recent months.
“ABTA has always played an important role within our industry and is highly valued by our customers. As we continue to navigate through the Covid-19 crisis for our industry, and start on our road to recovery, I’m looking forward to playing a vital role alongside Mark and other industry leaders.”