The letter to the Chancellor and Secretary of State for Transport asks for tailored support for the outbound travel sector
ABTA has written an open letter to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, urging them to support the outbound travel sector by providing tailored financial support to businesses and opening up travel by adding more countries onto the green list and removing quarantine for those travelling to amber list countries who have been vaccinated.
The letter comes as businesses face increased furlough costs and business rates payments this week (from July 1) and as the government reviews the requirements for international travel. A full copy of the letter is below.
Dear Chancellor, Dear Secretary of State,
We are writing during what would normally be the busiest trading period for most businesses in UK outbound travel. Instead the industry is struggling with a deepening crisis.
It is this time of year when most travel businesses make their money. The critical summer weeks account for around two thirds of annual income for many travel agencies and tour operators – vital revenue that carries those businesses through the rest of the year. But not this year. We’ve already lost a sizeable part of the season and ongoing restrictions on travel, combined with the pending rise in furlough and business rates payments, mean that many travel businesses, particularly small to medium-sized companies, are teetering on the edge of a financial cliff.
This devastation can still be avoided, if the government takes urgent action to support businesses through the crisis, and there are two things we are asking your respective departments to address immediately:
Firstly, more than anything, travel companies want to be able to trade their way out of this crisis. It is the government’s own restrictions and measures that are preventing businesses sending customers overseas. While we accept that that public health is the government’s overriding priority, we believe the traffic light system and the UK’s high level of vaccination set the right framework to allow for increased foreign travel now, in a safe and risk-managed way.
The additions of some popular holiday destinations to the green or green watch lists this week, while welcome, does not come anywhere near the restart of travel needed to save jobs and businesses and kickstart our recovery. More countries need to be added to the green list, and the government also needs to look urgently at relaxing the rules around quarantine for amber list countries for fully vaccinated travellers.
Ministers have been rightly proud of the success of the UK’s vaccine rollout. Yet, as other countries, many with still lower rates of vaccination than us, begin to reopen their borders and enable their citizens to travel again, it is time to capitalise fully on the success of our own vaccination programme.
We are encouraged that the government has confirmed an intention to relax rules for fully vaccinated people visiting amber destinations, and to remove advice against travelling to these places. However, these changes must be implemented quickly – before the end of July – if they are to make a meaningful difference. A vague promise to do so “later in the summer” will not be enough to save jobs and businesses in the travel industry.
Secondly, we urge the Chancellor to commit to providing a tailored package of financial support for travel companies, including extension of furlough support and business rates relief at current levels, which are currently due to rise this week (July 1), along with a dedicated grant scheme to help them get through the very difficult weeks and months ahead.
While paying 10 per cent of furlough contributions and a third of business rates may well be affordable for those businesses who have been able to trade during the pandemic and re-open since lockdown lifted, it is a terrifying prospect for many of our members. Without the opportunity to earn income since the beginning of the crisis, and with travel still severely restricted, these costs will be crippling for businesses in the outbound travel industry.
The gradual removal of support across the wider economy is based on parallel giving back of freedoms, and lifting of restrictions, which will enable businesses to trade again successfully. The Prime Minister, and many other cabinet ministers, have publicly acknowledged that this process will not be followed for international travel for many months to come. Yet we hear nothing from the government in terms of a plan for ongoing support, only the repeated message that the aviation industry has received £7billion in support. This support, as you say yourselves, was given to the aviation industry, not to travel agents or tour operators.
We are regularly hearing from travel agents and tour operators who have spent decades building up a profitable and viable business, only to see their life’s work wiped out, leaving them with heartbreaking, but unavoidable, decisions to cut staff. Our latest analysis shows that the industry has seen 195,000 jobs already lost or put at risk. This figure will increase notably in the coming weeks in the absence of government action.
This summer season is the most important ever for the outbound travel industry. We are asking you to act now to save jobs and businesses and to set the industry on the road to recovery.
ABTA Press Office helps out as members appear on prime time news shows to talk about the current state of the industry
ABTA Members have been very active in the media over the last few weeks, conducting TV and radio interviews around the current state of the industry and the ever more pressing need for targeted assistance. The media were delighted with their contributions, many of which were facilitated by the ABTA Press Office, and their passionate and eloquent testimonies made for powerful and compelling viewing and listening.
Members appeared on BBC prime time news, Sky News, Channel 4 and ITV Anglia, as well as the extremely prestigious Radio 4 Today programme and Radio 5 Live. In addition, many local radio stations sought their views and Council of Region Chairs have been especially prominent in fighting the corner of local ABTA members, work which can sometimes go unregarded and is carried out without any financial reward,
A special mention must go to Jackie Steadman of Travel Time World, Richard Slater of Henbury Travel, Marc Vincent of Newmarket holidays, Nick Lee of Broadlands Travel and those members who made themselves available in advance for interview on the Travel Day of Action. ABTA appreciates their efforts, particularly when the media can often ask for interviews at inconvenient times of the day.