Government urged to provide ‘basic tools’ to help travel firms during Covid-19

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The Government is failing to provide “basic tools” to help travel firms during the coronavirus pandemic, an industry body has warned.

Existing support “doesn’t work” and “won’t avoid job losses”, according to Abta.

The travel trade body commissioned a survey of 2,000 consumers which indicated only 15% of people took a foreign holiday between February and July.

More than nine out of 10 respondents (93%) are concerned about potential last-minute changes to travel advice issued by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Speaking at Abta’s annual convention, which is being held remotely, chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “We understand that the Government is facing a difficult balancing act, trying to limit the spread of the virus while keeping the economy moving.

“We’re more than six months into this crisis now, and the basic tools that would help build customer confidence to travel are still missing.

“We must now move away from the blanket Foreign Office advice and have a regionalised, targeted approach to both Foreign Office advice and quarantine.”

He added: “The virus does not travel on a passport so adopting a whole country approach to health measures makes no sense at all.”

Mr Tanzer said 20 travel firms who were members of Abta have collapsed since March.

“Some of those failures included names that have been around for generations, Shearings, STA, Cruise & Maritime, to name but three.

“Every failure is a personal tragedy for those employed.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps insisted that the importance of the travel and tourism sectors to the UK economy is “appreciated and understood by everyone in Government”.

He told the convention: “It’s precisely because the travel industry is so important that we’ve supported it with unprecedented measures across the British economy.

“The furlough scheme… paid up to 80% of employees’ wages, with more than 55,000 staff benefiting within aviation alone.”

He went on: “We’ve been working flat out all summer to try to revive tourism and travel.

“We created those travel corridors, to give families the chance to enjoy a holiday after those months of lockdown.

“But from the very start, we’ve had to be cautious because as we know, new Covid spikes risk wider restrictions down the line and ultimately, even more pain for travel firms.”

Responding to the Cabinet minister’s speech, Mr Tanzer said it was “very retrospective”.

He added: “I don’t think it took on board that we are still in the middle of this crisis.

“The furlough may have saved jobs, but it’s about what’s going to happen over the next six months as well.

“It’s really critical that we do have support. The travel corridors he mentioned, they’re mainly shut at the moment.

“They may exist in theory, but if you actually look at where we can go, there are very few places.”

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