In a letter sent to the chancellor today, organisations from every part of the UK outbound and inbound travel industry stressed the urgent need for government support for the sector.
The coalition urged officials to provide tailored financial support for the UK travel industry in next the budget next month.
The Save Future Travel Coalition – which is made of up 12 travel organisations - argue that the need for support is becoming even more critical as businesses head towards 12 months of lost income, and deadlines for government-backed loans and the end of furlough looming in April.
The travel industry has had little opportunity to operate or generate income over the last year, with coronavirus starting to affect travel as early as the end of January last year and a mounting number of restrictions preventing trade since then.
Between March last year and this January, there was just a three-week period when people could travel to the whole of Spain, the favourite holiday destination of Brits.
Writing in the letter, the coalitions urged the government to take a series of actions:
- Expand the grant schemes available to support all travel businesses. Liquidity is the single biggest challenge facing travel businesses today, but existing grants schemes do not address the trading consequences of severe restrictions on international travel. With the vaccine rollout progressing well, companies need help to bridge the gap and survive through to recovery.
- Extend other financial support mechanisms, such as furlough, VAT deferrals, business rates relief, loan re-payments, into the next financial year. It is particularly important that the furlough regime be extended in recognition that travel will likely restart gradually. To save jobs, salary support must be kept in place until recovery in the sector is gathering pace.
- Enable travel businesses to trade their way out of the crisis in the coming months. The government must work with the industry to put in a place a roadmap to recovery, which ensures stability for travellers and travel companies, and crucially, which uses existing mitigation measures to ensure travel can resume in a risk-controlled manner.
The coalition argued public health is the priority and understands the government needs to take the steps it feels necessary to stop the spread of the virus and new variants entering the country, but that comments from senior ministers about not booking summer holidays are misjudged - it is too early to make such predictions which only serve to further erode consumer confidence.
Since the start of the pandemic, as many as one in six travel jobs have been lost or put at risk and travel companies large and small have gone out of business.
ONS data show travel has been the hardest hit sector – with revenue down 90 per cent from February to October last year.
Yet, unlike other sectors such as hospitality, culture and the arts, the government has not provided any tailored financial support to help the industry get through the crisis.
The Save Future Travel Coalition - formed of ABTA – The Travel Association, Advantage Travel Partnership, AITO – The Specialist Travel Association, ANITA, ATAS, the BTA, CLIA, Keep Travel Alive, the SPAA, SBiT, the Travel Network Group and UKinbound – also says that the travel industry cannot wait for a full rollout of the vaccine before people start travelling again.
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA, said: “Government policies to curtail international travel have had a devasting impact on the industry.
“Despite its significance to the UK economy and its recovery, travel has become the forgotten sector, and businesses are running on empty due to a lack of tailored financial support from the UK government.
“The chancellor has an opportunity to address this in his budget.
“Supporting the sector through this time of crisis will payoff for the taxpayer and the wider economy.”
Han Yan/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images