ONS figures reveal that it is the sector worst hit by the pandemic
Travel agents and tour operators have been worst hit by the pandemic compared to any other services sector, according to recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, but the industry, unlike other sectors such as hospitality and the arts, has had no tailored support from the UK government.
The ONS figures about coronavirus and the impact on output in the UK economy for October 2020 show that travel agents and operators are 90 per cent down on where they were in February 2020, the worst of any of the services sectors. Travel companies have had very little trading opportunity since the start of the pandemic, with restrictions across the UK and internationally largely preventing travel.
ABTA has been arguing for tailored financial support for the sector throughout the crisis, both with the Westminster government and devolved administrations. The Scottish government has confirmed tailored support will be made available, but elsewhere the industry has been left wanting.
While travel companies have been able to access the furlough scheme, and it has served to save jobs, they are unable to take full advantage as travel staff need to be employed to deal with re-bookings and refunds, which have been a constant feature of the pandemic due to ever-changing travel advice.
ABTA is reiterating its calls to the government in Westminster, as well as the Welsh government, and Northern Ireland Executive, on the need to support the travel industry – not only to help preserve jobs and businesses, but also in recognition of the important role the travel industry will play in the economic recovery across the entire country.
ABTA also wants the Foreign Office to review its approach to travel advice, as the government is currently advising against all but essential travel to the majority of destinations. It is encouraging the government to allow for travel to countries where infection rates are comparable to or lower than the UK and where they have developed public health responses to the pandemic.
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA, said: “While the recent developments around a vaccine and test to release have provided a boost to consumer confidence, with more enquiries and interest in booking holidays for next summer and into 2022, the start of 2021 will still be very challenging for the industry.
“All of the travel industry is struggling, but for some parts, like ski and long-haul operators, the coming months will be even more difficult. With the ONS now clearly showing we’ve been the hardest hit service sector in the UK, travel businesses need help to get through the difficult months ahead.
“The government also needs to ease its travel advice, allowing people to travel more freely. The Scottish Government led the way by introducing specific funding for the travel industry – the UK Government, as well as those in Wales and Northern Ireland, needs to follow suit.”
The campaign uses ABTA members’ videos on social media
The second stage of ABTA’s turn-of-year campaign has launched and features ABTA members’ videos on social media.
The campaign, entitled Travel with Confidence, features retail travel agents, homeworkers and tour operators talking about the “support, expertise and protection that comes from booking with an ABTA member”.
The videos will be on Facebook and Instagram until the end of February.
There are also six-second videos by ABTA which show the benefits, added value and peace of mind that ABTA members offer their customers – these videos will be on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.
The social media videos represent the second stage of the Travel with Confidence campaign, the first being radio adverts on Capital and Heart which launched in December. ABTA has also launched a consumer competition.
Using the hashtag #MakeMoreMemories, consumers are encouraged to comment on ABTA’s social media posts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with details of where they are planning to book a holiday to in 2021 to be in with a chance to win a pair of Apple AirPod Pros.
Graeme Buck, director of communications at ABTA, said: “After a tough 2020, many people are really looking forward to taking a break. Those thinking about their holiday plans for the year ahead will be keen to turn to travel professionals they can trust to help them find the best holiday for them.
“We wanted to invite our fantastic members to explain in their own words why their personal service, incredible breadth of knowledge and tireless support means their customers return to them each year to book their holidays.
“We’ll be reminding the public that they can book with confidence when they see the ABTA logo, knowing that they will have access to the support and expertise provided by ABTA Members.” For more information about the campaign, please visit abta.com/travelwithconfidence