Mark Tanzer has argued the travel sector has an opportunity to “build back better” following an extremely challenging year.
Opening the annual Travel Convention, the ABTA chief executive said sustainability must be key to the sector moving forward, but that progress would not be easy.
Addressing the conference this morning, he said: “We are very much still in the middle of this crisis, which started back in March with the closing of the UK borders.
“We are currently in the middle of a second spike, here in the UK and across Europe.
“This means travel corridors have closed down, causing real trouble for the travel industry.
“Customer confidence is impacted by this, by both the government advice and the blanked travel ban from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).”
He added: “After a wash-out of a summer season, we are seeing weak demand for winter bookings.
“This coincides with the end of the government furlough scheme, and we have seen 20 ABTA members fail so far this year – an indication of the financial pressure travel companies are under.”
Turning his attention to what must be done to turn the fortunes of the sector around, he argued the government must act quickly.
“Travel is a resilient industry, and we are used to digging ourselves out of trouble – but this is different.
“The problems we face are directly linked to the government health policy.
“The FCDO advice has to be changed, and we must move to a more regional approach.
“We have seen the government is able to discriminate between different levels of risk, as we have seen with the newly introduced three tier system here at home.
“This must be extended internationally.
“There must also be a move toward testing, with the global travel taskforce reporting as quickly as possible.”
He added: “There is no doubt this is the biggest crisis we have faced – but there are reasons for optimism.
“People are booking for 2021 and may be looking to spend more, as they are unable to travel this year.”
In terms of sustainability, ABTA has argued the travel industry has an opportunity to rebuild in a more sustainable way following the coronavirus crisis.
The body has today published a new report which sets out how the devastating impact of the global pandemic has brought into relief the value of tourism to holidaymakers, the UK and destinations.
Entitled ‘Tourism for Good – A Roadmap for Rebuilding Travel and Tourism,’ the document explains how it is imperative to purposefully rebuild a more responsible and resilient tourism industry that benefits all those involved.
It also seeks to provide a framework for collaborative action to build better places to live in and better places to visit.
Central to the report is the belief that travel is a powerful force for good; being both physically and mentally restorative for holidaymakers while also generating significant economic, employment and social benefits in the UK and around the world.
It also acknowledges the challenges that the sector faces, including the need to accelerate decarbonisation and to ensure that tourism generates greater benefits for destinations and local communities.
The report emphasises the huge value and contribution of UK outbound tourism, both domestically and internationally, in terms of job creation, livelihood opportunities, social benefits for local communities, support and funding for nature and wildlife conservation and cultural heritage protection.
New research from CEBR shows that the aggregate global GVA (gross value added) of UK outbound tourism is estimated at $84 billion and supports 2.7 million jobs, while in the UK it generates £37 billion (1.8 per cent of GDP) in aggregate economic impact and 526,000 full-time equivalent jobs.
For certain destinations – the Maldives, Jamaica, Cyprus, Malta, Mauritius, Greece, Spain and Portugal – which rely heavily on tourism already, UK holidaymakers alone make a marked contribution of more than one per cent of national GDP .
Underpinned by a series of nine core principles, the report sets out a roadmap to guide a commitment from ABTA to working with its members, their suppliers, destination authorities, travellers and the wider travel industry.
It also calls on the UK government to support tourism’s contribution to economic development and employment, deliver the necessary policies to encourage transport providers to transition to greener technologies, and to help consumers to transition to low-carbon transport.
Tanzer concluded: “Tourism’s unexpected standstill has given us a unique opportunity to reflect on the type of industry we want to rebuild, fit for the challenges we face and a contributor to the global good.
“I believe the future prosperity of the industry depends on putting sustainability at the heart of our recovery.”
Find out more about the Tourism for Good roadmap below