08 Dec

Bringing leaders together again to discuss industry policy

We were delighted to host ABTA’s annual policy event, Travel Matters, in Westminster this week. As always, it was a great opportunity to bring together industry leaders to discuss the future of our sector. It is an event that’s highly regarded by Government, with the Aviation Minister delivering the keynote address and delegates from a swathe of Government departments – from the Department of Transport to Passport Office - in attendance, along with journalists from national and trade media.  
Despite being moved from June because of rail strikes, the event ended up being well timed given the economic and political turbulence of previous months. It was great to hear from the Aviation Minister, Baroness Vere of Norbiton, on her enthusiasm for working in transport and the priorities for her department, including on the importance of working closely with ABTA in order to get the view of the wider travel sector, and I look forward to taking part in the new Aviation Council in the new year. The Council is a new forum that has been formed after the pandemic to ensure that industry leaders have a chance to discuss the main topics of the day with Ministers and officials from across a range of government departments.

The Minister also talked about the need for the travel industry to provide constructive feedback – highlighting what we believe are the positives in Government plans, not just the negative, and coming forward with ideas. This very much resonates with ABTA’s approach to public affairs – evidence-based, solutions-focused lobbying and advocacy. And it is a point ABTA’s Director of Public Affairs, Luke Petherbridge, also spoke about at the event, where he acknowledged that, although there were many frustrations during the pandemic, there were also a number of  ways the Government did support the industry – including income support schemes, government-backed loans, responding to ABTA’s calls to include retail agents in general grant funding, the Additional Restrictions Scheme, and lifting all travel restrictions earlier than many other countries. Luke reflected on the need to acknowledge where support has been utilised if we’re to maintain a constructive relationship with Ministers emerging from the pandemic. You can read more about his comments in this piece in Travel Weekly
There was also a good discussion of the value of the travel industry to the wider UK economy, with UKinbound’s Joss Croft recognising that the taxes raised through travel spend and doing business go into the funds that support vital public services, and both Luke and I talked about the findings from ABTA’s recent report on the value of international travel and the importance of getting this in front of Ministers, officials and MPs.
As I said in my speech, the challenge from industry to this Government is to move from the tactical to the strategic, and it already looks to be a busy agenda on that front including ATOL reform and the review of the Package Travel Regulations. ABTA is already working to represent Members’ interest in these areas and we continue to put forward pragmatic solutions to other issues facing the sector such as extending the Youth Mobility Scheme to help with some of the labour challenges we’ve seen since the UK’s Departure from the EU. You can read my speech in full here

Political Adviser, Nikki de Costa said that next year is all to play for as Government moves from settling the ship to election mode. ABTA will continue to work hard for Members – representing their views and interest, and collaboration with others will be a key part of this, particularly the Future Travel Coalition.

Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive