12 months of travel restrictions
It has been 12 months since the Government introduced a global advisory against all but essential travel. There have been very few opportunities to travel since, putting ABTA Members and the wider industry under enormous financial and emotional pressure.
Sadly, we have seen job losses in the tens of thousands, and well-known and well-loved travel companies have closed their doors for good.
Tailored financial support
From very early on in the pandemic we were calling for the need to provide support for the UK travel industry. I know that Government measures such as furlough, business rates relief and VAT reductions have helped to keep businesses going and protect jobs, and we were pleased to see the Government respond to our calls to extend these measures in the Budget earlier this month.
But these general business support measures are not enough and aren’t available to all travel businesses, which is why we have been calling for tailored financial support that matches the needs of travel companies. Governments in Scotland and Northern Ireland have acted on this, and the Welsh Assembly has made its grants available to all travel companies.
In England, the situation is different, there hasn’t been specific support provided but retail travel agents have been able to access general support grants, following lobbying by ABTA in the Autumn, and will now also have the opportunity to apply for the restart grants announced by the Chancellor in the Budget. We encourage other travel companies, including tour operators, coach operators and homeworkers, to get in touch with their local authorities around applying for the Additional Restrictions Grants. The Chancellor allocated additional money to this discretionary funding in the Budget and we have advice and tips on how to apply for that funding on ABTA.com/savefuturetravel.
A roadmap for reopening
We are actively engaged with the Government’s Global Travel Taskforce on the restart of international travel and continue to work closely with our partners in the Save Future Travel Coalition, and colleagues in aviation to ensure a consistent and united voice.
We have said for some time that having the option of a vaccine certificate, or being able to demonstrate a negative test, is likely to be part of reopening travel, so it was encouraging to see the EU lay out its plans for a Digital Green Passport this week. We welcome the work being carried out to try and develop a co-ordinated approach to recording proof of vaccination, testing and recovery on the basis that consistency across the EU would simplify the messaging for travellers. This initiative will apply to travel within the EU only at first, and the specifics aren’t there yet on how it might affect travel into the EU from the UK or any other non-EU country.
We still need to hear more from the devolved nations on their plans for restarting travel and we are engaging with them about this. We also have template letters Members can use to write to their representatives in the national governments.