16 Mar

Chancellor’s Budget – going for growth?

Yesterday the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, delivered his Budget to Parliament. There were two key themes in his speech which strongly resonate with the travel industry.

The first is growth. The Chancellor described his fiscal statement as a ‘growth Budget’. Time will tell whether it is or not, but travel would certainly agree it is vital for our sector.

A point we are constantly making to Government, and politicians of all parties, is that the outbound travel industry is a growth industry. We have a strong track record here, including when emerging from challenging economic circumstances. ABTA’s independent research forecasts that, with the right framework, the outbound sector is expected to grow 15% by 2027 (compared with 2019 levels), outperforming the wider UK economy.

This is a message we can’t stress enough through our engagements with politicians and government officials, and I will be making this point when I meet with the Aviation Minister next week. I’d also encourage members to continue to engage with your local MPs on the value of the travel industry to the local and national economies, using our template materials which are available here.

The second is helping people back into work. Here we saw a range of measures, from ‘returnerships’ helping over 50s back to work to extending free childcare provision to one- and two-year-olds, with the objective of helping parents and carers return to the workforce.
A big obstacle in the travel industry’s recovery from the pandemic has been the ability to recruit and retain staff. These measures announced by the Chancellor could help to alleviate these pressures, although clearly the nature of the schemes means they won’t offer immediate respite from the challenges.
This Budget was never expected to include much in the way of specific measures for outbound travel businesses. The Autumn Statement covered many of those issues, including extending the business rates relief scheme - something ABTA had been lobbying for on behalf of members. It also included a commitment to increasing Air Passenger Duty (APD) in line with inflation. The Budget saw confirmation that the short-haul rate will stay frozen next year, which is welcome.  But for a Government supposedly intent on restoring growth and creating a competitive economy, having APD rates which are amongst the highest departure taxes in the world is a clear obstacle to achieving their objectives.

Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive