Travel sector critical of new hospitality funding
ABTA has criticised £1 billion in emergency funding for the hospitality sector, arguing the plight of the travel industry has been ignored.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled the cash earlier as the Omicron variant of Covid-19 disrupts the festive season.
Under the plans, the government will provide one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises for businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors in England.
In response, ABTA director of public affair, Luke Petherbridge, said: “The statement today once again ignores the direct impact of government policy decisions on businesses reliant on international travel.
“Travel agents, tour operators and travel management companies will rightly be asking why they haven’t been given the same treatment as other businesses that are suffering at this time.”
He added: “Average annual revenue across the travel industry is down by nearly 80 per cent on pre-crisis levels even before Omicron emerged, and the re-introduction of enhanced testing – both pre and post arrival – have added significant costs and notably dampened consumer demand.
“As the sector approaches what should be the peak sales period for booking holidays for summer 2022, businesses are instead facing another round of heart-breaking and demoralising cancellations, with no indication that the government is listening to the challenges they are facing.”
Petherbridge acknowledged funds were available through the Additional Restrictions Grants scheme, but said this was insufficient.
“What’s more, travel businesses will have to compete with companies in other industry sectors to get some of this cash,” he explained.
“It simply isn’t good enough for the government to continue to ignore an industry that, prior to Covid-19, supported over 500,000 jobs and generated more than £37 billion for the UK economy.
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive at Advantage Travel Partnership, was slightly more optimistic, but said there were questions to answer.
She added: “We’re awaiting the detailed guidance from Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) regarding the announcement from the chancellor and we’d like to understand the definition of ‘leisure’ businesses as retail travel agents were included in previous grants.
“However, this will mean that half of Advantage’s non-retail business are unlikely to qualify for grants despite seeing an 80 per cent drop in revenue.
“In addition, travel companies will have to fight tooth and nail against other businesses to qualify for the Additional Restrictions Grants that the chancellor has announced, but come at the discretion of local authorities.
“Last week we wrote to the chancellor again urging him to provide financial support to the travel trade, and to recognise that they have been locked down, unable to fully trade and yet again it looks as though our members are at the back of the queue.”
Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, echoed calls for sector specific support.
“The budget will undoubtedly help domestic tourism businesses that are facing unprecedented challenges due to the Omicron restrictions which is obviously good news.
“However, it is astounding that hospitality businesses, which can trade, will receive sector specific support, but the UK’s tourism supply chain, such as inbound UK tour and coach operators, are being left to wither and die.”
He added: “The government’s own arrival testing and quarantine restrictions has seen inbound business virtually wiped out for 22 months.
“The sector has had no targeted support, which will leave many businesses involved in the UK’s fifth largest export sector, inbound tourism, left wondering just how little the government cares or understands.”