Coalition of travel organisations urge Chancellor to deliver tailored financial support in the Budget
In a letter sent to the Chancellor, organisations from every part of the UK outbound and inbound travel industry stressed the urgent need for government to provide tailored financial support for the UK travel industry in next month’s Budget.
The Save Future Travel Coalition – which is made of up 12 travel organisations – argues that the need for support is becoming even more critical as businesses head towards 12 months of lost income, and deadlines for government-backed loans and the end of furlough looming in April.
The travel industry has had little opportunity to operate or generate income over the last year, with coronavirus starting to affect travel as early as the end of January 2020 and a mounting number of restrictions preventing trade since then.
Between March 2020 and January 2021, there was just one three-week period when people could travel to the whole of Spain, the UK’s favourite holiday destination. Writing in the letter, the Coalition says, “As you prepare for the Budget, we urge the government to consider the following priorities to Save Future Travel to expand the grant schemes available to support all travel businesses; extend other financial support mechanisms, such as furlough, VAT deferrals, business rates relief, loan repayments, into the next financial year; enable travel businesses to trade their way out of the crisis in the coming months.”
The Save Future Travel Coalition – formed of ABTA, Advantage Travel Partnership, AITO, ANITA, ATAS, the BTA, CLIA, Keep Travel Alive, the SPAA, SBiT, the Travel Network Group and UKinbound – also says that the travel industry cannot wait for a full rollout of the vaccine before people start travelling again. Not only would another summer season lost to the pandemic be a seismic blow to the industry, it would also threaten the industry’s and UK’s recovery.
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA, said: “Government policies to curtail international travel have had a devastating impact on the industry. Despite its significance to the UK economy and its recovery, travel has become the forgotten sector, and businesses are running on empty due to a lack of tailored financial support from the UK government. The chancellor has an opportunity to address this in his Budget. Supporting the sector through this time of crisis will payoff for the taxpayer and the wider economy.”
Julia Lo Bue Said, CEO, Advantage Travel Partnership said: “While the policy measures introduced, such as quarantine, travel corridors, testing and localised restrictions on travel, are understandable from a public health perspective, they also diminish consumer confidence and damage trade. Yet, to date, these measures have not been combined with tailored financial support targeted at addressing the consequences of these policies for the businesses affected – as a result our members are under enormous pressure. We need government to address this as a matter of urgency and work with the industry to develop a roadmap to reopen travel.”
Joss Croft, CEO, UKinbound said: “Many businesses are stuck between a rock and a hard place – they can’t trade to generate income, but they’re also shut out of support. Businesses in the travel sector, including destination management companies, coach operators and tour operators, as well as many others, are entirely excluded from existing grants and support packages. The UK government needs to show they value the UK’s world-class travel and tourism industry.”
Clive Wratten, chief executive, The Business Travel Association said: “The business travel community has been almost entirely forgotten. Alongside our colleagues in the leisure industry, we are asking the chancellor to set out targeted support for our industry in his Budget. If we are to be a global Britain, business travel must commence at the earliest safe date and there needs to be an industry to support this vital economic contributor. Without targeted support, many businesses will rapidly collapse and thousands of jobs will be lost.”
Each issue we speak to a different ABTA employee about their work. This time: Angela Hills, head of destinations
I am ABTA’s head of destinations, with responsibility for destination operations, health, safety and security, crisis management and incident management, a role that is extremely varied and involves myself and my team supporting ABTA members in this arena.
I joined the travel industry in the late-’80s, working for an agency at Gatwick Airport, who provided the customer support ground services for a large number of tour operators including Redwing Holidays – those of a certain age will remember them! As a result of those hectic days running around the airport making sure travellers safely made their flights and supporting those that didn’t, my passion for travel and the travel industry was ignited and it became my career. Here we are, over 30 years later, and I still have that love and passion for travel and the travel industry.
My career so far has provided many opportunities, including working in various junior and senior management roles both overseas and in the UK for a major UK tour operator. In September 1998 I was appointed as the head of health and safety and operational support for the Federation of Tour Operators, which merged with ABTA in 2008. The merger of the two trade associations provided the perfect opportunity to expand the reach of our work in destination operations, health, safety and security, crisis management and incident management.
Working with members, destination governments and associated stakeholders, we are able to support them to make changes and improvements to the components that form holiday and travel arrangements, such as transport, excursions and accommodations. As well as provide assistance when incidents and issues occur – this is an integral part of my work. I am proud of my work and the work of my team, and we have published a number of guidance books and manuals, such as the Health & Safety Technical Guide and An Introduction To Crisis Management, which have been distributed globally and form the part of many organisations’ and stakeholders’ risk management systems.
The ABTA safety campaigns help highlight some of the key issues that travellers should consider to keep themselves safe, and in our government and stakeholder training initiatives we bring people together to consider how small but significant changes can really make all the difference in risk and safety management, as well as promote the benefits of an environment where travellers and staff have confidence that safety and wellbeing is at the heart of travel.
As one of ABTA’s key points of contact for government representatives and tourist boards on destination-related issues and projects, we have a very close working relationship with many decision-makers in destinations and have an excellent relationship with the FCDO, which means we are in a great position to highlight issues and seek assistance to investigate, and where possible resolve, issues quickly and efficiently. A lot of this work goes on behind the scenes, which is as it should be.
My role at ABTA is incredibly varied; over the years I have been at the heart of dealing with a wide range of incidents and crises, assisting ABTA members and their customers. However, it is fair to say that the current pandemic and the impacts on our industry has been shattering and, while some of the work of myself and my team has had to be put hold, we have diversified our approach to support the industry, producing new material including the Post Pandemic Recovery guide, this is aimed at members and their stakeholders, to support them in taking steps to prepare for when travel restarts.
We continue to publish information on countries’ recovery plans, send daily operational bulletins to highlight the latest information, and summarise through a situational update and country ‘grid’ the restrictions that are in currently in place – this is done in real time and often ‘after hours’ ensuring our members have all the latest information they need. The support ABTA offers to members is more important than ever and my colleagues and I have been arranging regular virtual meetings to discuss members’ concerns and update them on the work ABTA is doing to support them through and beyond the pandemic. Over the last very difficult 12 months I have become even more conscious of how important it is to encourage collaboration and come together to share common experiences and knowledge to support the Industry and ABTA and its members, and this work will continue to be at the heart of building a future for the industry post-pandemic.
As a speaker on behalf of the tourism industry at UK and international conferences, delivering health and safety, crisis and operational training to suppliers and governments in destinations I am really looking forward to a time when we can get travel restarted and reintroduce programmes of work in destinations and go on holiday! As travel restarts this may raise challenges for the industry to manage, but I know we are ready to tackle them head on and it will be a pleasure to support our members, destination governments and associated stakeholders so that we can make changes as appropriate to help build an industry that has a sustainable future and inspire customer confidence.
To be honest, while this article was meant to be an insight into my role at ABTA, it really is just as much about my colleagues, whose dedication, expertise and good nature makes my job so much easier to do. They are an exceptional bunch of people.