The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA) celebrated 100 years since its founding with the message that the fear factor around international travel must stop.
In front of an audience of 200 travel professionals at the Crowne Plaza in Glasgow on Thursday evening (9 September), SPAA president Joanne Dooey appealed to the Scottish and UK governments to support a return to international travel.
Joanne Dooey said: “We need to see a return to international flying. The fear factor driven by people in power now needs to stop.
“We need to get Scotland back to business with safety protocols in place which are simple, and more importantly do not cost a fortune, to allow our industry to get back to some normality.
“We need to remove complexity and bring in simplicity with clear consistent communication and processes to support travel and not to hinder it or prevent it.”
It is widely accepted that the travel sector has been the worst hit industry by the pandemic, with passenger numbers falling to below 10% of previous years. However, this statistic hides the true financial picture for the outbound travel sector. With travel agents not receiving any income until the customer actually travels, agents were faced with refunding bookings made pre pandemic meaning that, once credit card refund charges are taken into account, agents have had negative income – and little tailored support – since autumn 2019.
The SPAA has been lobbying for Scots being demonising for going on holiday to cease, and for the Scottish government to get behind an industry which supports 26,000 jobs in Scotland and brings £1.466 billion to the economy annually.
Joanne added: “We need to trust in the vaccine and allow freedom of movement.”
The SPAA has continued, throughout the pandemic, to lobby for sectoral support for travel agents who have tirelessly worked to keep their customers travelling and their businesses afloat.
A recent SPAA survey revealed that a third of members has taken a second job since March 2020 to help their businesses survive and 7% of these members had taken over 3 jobs. Almost 70% of travel agency owners surveyed have personally had virtually no income since the pandemic start.
“We at the SPAA have lived up to our mission to be the Voice of Travel in Scotland in our centenary year – and we will continue to do so. Loudly. We will keep up the fight for sector specific support for the travel sector.”
Joanne also outlined the SPAA’s forthcoming focus and how the organisation will continue to abide by its founding principles of safeguarding and influencing the interests of agents. The topics of APD, ATOL review and airline insolvency will remain high on the SPAA agenda.
The SPAA Centenary dinner was originally scheduled for February 2021. The SPAA is the world’s oldest organisation representing travel agents. It currently has 120 member companies, all their associated agencies across Scotland including many home workers, and 92 associate members across the travel and transport industry.