ABTA – The Travel Association has written to the Prime Minister to provide an update on the specific challenges that the industry – in particular travel agents and tour operators – is facing as this crisis unfolds, and to call for a coordinated strategy supported by specific measures and clear communication by the Government.
The outbound travel industry contributes over £37 billion annually to the UK economy, supporting 500,000 jobs, and the losses that the industry faces because of this crisis are set to affect every region of the country.
In the letter, Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive, acknowledges that the Government must make difficult decisions during the crisis and offers some practical steps that, if taken, could make the difference between tens of thousands of jobs surviving or being lost.
The letter sets out the scale of the challenges that tour operators and travel agents are facing, including the FCO travel advice against all but essential travel, uncertainty regarding the approach to lockdown in different destinations, and the ongoing problems with refunds – due to continued issues with suppliers’, notably airlines, not refunding monies owed.
ABTA’s practical steps include:
- Ensuring any quarantine measures that are proposed are part of a wider strategy, including consideration of FCO travel advice. Any measures should be based on health and scientific advice and be proportionate, targeted and limited only to what is necessary to protect public health, and they should be communicated clearly.
- Providing guidance and clarity on refunds for package holidays, including confirming clearly and publicly that Refund Credit Notes covering ATOL package holidays with flights are financially protected.
- Working with the ABI and insurers, to ensure adequate travel insurance cover is available to customers for when FCO travel restrictions start to be lifted.
Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive, says, “We understand the Government must make difficult decisions and we’re grateful for the business support measures it has introduced to date, but our concern is that these will not be enough to avoid large scale job losses and business failures in the travel industry which will impact every region in the UK. ABTA is eager to contribute to Government efforts because we need a strategic and coordinated approach, supported by practical steps to save future travel and aid its recovery.
“The success of the Government’s plan for recovery will depend on the return of consumer confidence which requires clear and consistent communication.”
ABTA sets out its plans for engaging across Government to ensure the voice of the outbound travel sector is heard as the Government embarks on the recovery phase and the letter states how critically important it is that businesses and customers are given clear and consistent guidance and that public messages match published Government policy to avoid miscommunication.
To help the travel industry’s path to recovery, the letter also highlights the need for the Government to indicate its criteria for the transition from the current FCO advice against non-essential global travel to the re-opening of travel to destinations.
Finally, ahead of the Transport Select Committee hearing with the CAA and Aviation Minister, to take place on Wednesday, ABTA expresses its extreme disappointment at the Government’s failure to make any statement on consumer financial protection in the Covid-19 crisis, which is creating consumer confusion and placing increased strain on agents and operators.