14 Oct

ABTA calls for urgent Government action at annual Travel Convention

  • Government must act urgently to support the £60bn travel industry, which has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Government support to date doesn’t work for the industry, and won’t avoid job losses.
  • ABTA launches ‘Tourism for Good’ report which puts sustainability at the heart of rebuilding travel.

ABTA – The Travel Association says the global travel industry has an opportunity and responsibility to rebuild in a more sustainable way following the coronavirus crisis, but that urgent action from the UK Government is critical in helping boost consumer confidence. 

At the Association’s annual Travel Convention, held virtually this year, ABTA revealed new figuresi showing the impact of the coronavirus crisis on overseas travel. Only 15% of people took a foreign holiday between February and July 2020 compared to 51% over the 12-month period, and 64% the previous year.

More than half (53%) of people said they took fewer overseas holidays this past year compared to the previous year, with 87% of those saying they took fewer holidays because of coronavirus. 
The current government restrictions around international travel are a major contributing factor in people’s reticence to travel, with 93% of people concerned about potential last-minute changes to foreign office travel advice and 4 in 5 people (80%) concerned about having to quarantine when they return from holiday to the UK.

While general support measures, such as furlough and the business interruption loan schemes, have given breathing space to some travel businesses, the Government has been too slow to act on the tailored support that ABTA has been calling for since the start of the crisis. 

After a summer dominated by ever-changing quarantine rules and a dwindling number of destinations for holidaymakers to visit, and with the Government yet to adopt either a testing regime or a fully regionalised approach to foreign travel advice and quarantine measures – despite many other countries having these measures in place, we have already witnessed a number of travel companies fail and tens of thousands of jobs lost.

Without tailored support, including further grants to aid recovery, travel agents in particular face a very difficult few months ahead. These businesses, the vast majority of whom are SMEs, and which includes high-street businesses that are an integral part of communities across the UK, have had no revenue for nearly a year. The Job Support Scheme, which requires people to pay a minimum of 55% of salaries, does not go far enough for these businesses to avoid difficult decisions to let go of valued of staff members.

It is vital that the Global Travel Taskforce launched this month to consider a testing regime, and other measures to support recovery of the travel industry, acts decisively and urgently to help increase consumer confidence and get the industry moving again.

Support from the Government is even more critical as the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020 draws near. Many questions for travellers and travel businesses regarding the UK’s future arrangements with the EU remain unanswered and further clarity is essential to avoid even more disruption for the travel industry in 2021.

Looking ahead to travel and tourism’s recovery and future prosperity, new figures reveal that more than half of peopleii (52%) believe that the travel industry should reopen in a greener way. 

Given the devastating impact the pandemic has had on travel and tourism, ABTA’s new report ‘Tourism for Good – A Roadmap for Rebuilding Travel and Tourism’ sets out how to rebuild a more responsible and resilient industry that is fit for the challenges it faces for the benefit of all those involved.

Highlighting the sector as a powerful force for good, new researchiii from CEBR shows that the aggregate global GVA (gross value added) of UK outbound tourism is estimated at $81.4 billion and supports 2.7 million jobs, while in the UKiv it generates £37 billion (1.8% of GDP) in aggregate economic impact and 526,000 full-time equivalent jobs.

The report also identifies the sustainability challenges faced by the industry, including the need to accelerate decarbonisation and to ensure that tourism generates greater benefits for destinations and local communities, and emphasises how these will be addressed most effectively through collaborative action.

Underpinned by a series of nine core principles, the report sets out a roadmap to guide ABTA’s commitment to working with its Members, the wider travel industry, destinations, and customers. 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.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA’s Chief Executive said:

“There is no doubt that people’s confidence and trust in the industry has taken a huge hit – and we must work hard to earn that trust back. Not only is that by being creative and flexible in terms of the holiday and customer experience we offer, but also by making sustainability a fundamental principle of travel. 

“We have to look at the whole spectrum of sustainability issues and ask ourselves – how can we do more? Out of every crisis is opportunity – for the travel industry – our opportunity is embracing sustainability. We have a duty to come back stronger and more responsible to ensure our future survival.

“We also need to make sure the UK Government understands the huge value of the sector and takes urgent action to support it – not just in the immediate future so we aren’t counting the costs of coronavirus for decades to come, but also with long-term policies that will help the industry to rebuild in a greener way.”

Notes to editors

The findings are from research with nationally representative sample of 2,000 consumers using an online research methodology and related to holiday booking habits in the 12 months to July 2020. Fieldwork was conducted in the last two weeks of August 2020 and was conducted by The Nursery Research and Planning (www.the-nursery.net/).
ii As above.
iii New research from CEBR, ‘The economic importance of UK outbound tourism to the EU27+3 economies’, 2020, and ‘The economic importance of UK outbound tourism to select Non-EU economies’, 2020.
iv ABTA (2018) Driving Growth: The economic value of outbound travel. https://www.abta.com/system/files/media/uploads/Driving%20Growth%202019%2011042019.pdf

About ABTA
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.