ABTA and the SPAA urge Members to apply for grants after eligibility clarification from the Scottish Government
ABTA highlights inconsistencies in grant funding to UK Government
In response to calls from ABTA – The Travel Association and the Scottish Passenger Agents' Association (SPAA), the Scottish Government has confirmed that travel agents under Level 4 restrictions in Scotland should be eligible to receive grants from the Strategic Framework Business Fund.
ABTA and the SPAA had been lobbying for a clarification of the eligibility of Scottish travel agents to receive grants since the criteria was announced in early November. The Regulations and guidance were not entirely clear, as there was no direct reference to travel agencies.
In a letter to ABTA, Business Minister Jamie Hepburn said any retail businesses in Level 4 areas not on the exemption list are required to close, clarifying: “I acknowledge that the designation of ‘retail’ and ‘selling goods’ may give some businesses, including travel agents, pause. However I can confirm it is our intention that travel agents would come under the requirement for retail businesses to close at Level 4, and that they should be able to access the relevant Strategic Framework funding, provided they meet the other eligibility criteria.” A similar letter was sent to the SPAA.
More information on the eligibility and the application process for the Strategic Framework Business Fund is available on the Scottish Government website.
The Minister added that besides the Strategic Framework Business Fund, the Scottish Government has made an additional £45 million in funding available to local authorities to support businesses impacted by COVID-19. Of these, £15 million is directed to newly self-employed people who are not able to access other forms of financial support. The rest (£30 million) will be discretionary funding to enable local authorities to provide additional support for businesses where they consider it to be necessary, although the criteria for the latter funds has not been announced yet.
ABTA also continues to seek clarity on the availability of grants to businesses in the other devolved nations.
This week, ABTA wrote to the Minister of Finance in Northern Ireland, MLA Conor Murphy, seeking confirmation agents could access the funding made available to businesses forced to close in Northern Ireland, and urging the introduction of a package of tailored support, including a round of ‘recovery grants’ for SMEs and other travel businesses that missed out on previous support. The association has also previously written to the Welsh Government about the design of their support schemes, and continues to monitor the situation across the UK carefully, as restrictions change and support packages are amended.
ABTA’s Director of Public Affairs, Luke Petherbridge, said:
“After so much uncertainty, it is good news that the Scottish Government has confirmed travel agents in Level 4 areas should receive support under the Strategic Framework Business Fund. We encourage Members to let us know if they are experiencing difficulties.
“Additionally, since the Scottish Government continues to advise against non-essential travel, travel businesses across the entire nation are facing restrictions on their trade. Travel businesses need support as a matter of urgency, and we urge the Scottish Government to provide specific tailored support, as well as to ensure access to additional funds, such as the discretionary funding that will become available from local authorities. There is a proposal for supporting Scottish travel agents through the crisis, which our partners the SPAA have put forward, and which ABTA is supporting, and we will also continue to work together to promote the need for support for all businesses in the travel industry, whether agents, operators or TMCs, with Ministers and officials.
“On the existing grants specifically, it is frustrating that the sensible and practical clarification issued by the Scottish Government has not been mirrored by Ministers in Westminster. ABTA will continue to urge an update to guidance to ensure that travel agents across England can access the Local Restrictions Grant Support scheme.
“We know that there are still many travel businesses across the UK struggling to access the much-needed funds to keep them afloat. We will continue to make the case for travel businesses across all the UK with the appropriate Administrations.”
The SPAA President, Joanne Dooey, said:
“We were relieved to receive confirmation on the subject of grants for those of our members who have had to close under the current Level 4 restrictions from the Scottish Government and we are now anxiously awaiting news on the recent proposals we have made to them for additional tailored support to enable our members to survive till March 2021.”
Notes to editors
ABTA has been a trusted travel brand for 70 years. Our purpose is to help our Members to grow their businesses successfully and sustainably, and to help their customers travel with confidence.
The ABTA brand stands for support, protection and expertise. This means consumers have confidence in ABTA and a strong trust in ABTA Members. These qualities are core to us as they ensure that holidaymakers remain confident in the holiday products that they buy from our Members.
We help our Members and their customers navigate through today's changing travel landscape by raising standards in the industry; offering schemes of financial protection; providing an independent complaints resolution service should something go wrong; giving guidance on issues from sustainability to health and safety and by presenting a united voice to government to ensure the industry and the public get a fair deal.
ABTA has more than 4,300 travel brands in Membership, providing a wide range of leisure and business travel services, with a combined annual UK turnover of £39 billion. For more details about what we do, what being an ABTA Member means and how we help the British public travel with confidence visit www.abta.com.