Government must provide tailored support for travel industry as ONS figures show it is the sector worst hit by the pandemic
ABTA responds to latest ONS figures on impact of coronavirus to UK economy
Travel agents and tour operators have been worst hit by the pandemic compared to any other services sector, according to the ONS figures published today (see chart at end of release), but the industry, unlike other sectors such as hospitality and the arts, has had no tailored support from the UK Government.
Today’s ONS figures about coronavirus and the impact on output in the UK economy for October 2020 shows that travel agents and operators are 90% down on where they were in February 2020, the worst of any of the services sectors. Travel companies have had very little trading opportunity since the start of the pandemic, with restrictions across the UK and internationally preventing travel.
ABTA has been arguing for tailored financial support for the sector throughout the crisis, both with the Westminster Government and Devolved Administrations. The Scottish Government has this week confirmed tailored support will be made available from January, but elsewhere the industry has been left wanting.
While travel companies have been able to access the furlough scheme, and it has served to save jobs, they are unable to take full advantage as travel staff need to be employed to deal with re-bookings and refunds, which have been a constant feature of the pandemic due to ever-changing travel advice.
In light of today’s data, ABTA is reiterating its calls to the Government in Westminster, as well as the Welsh Government, and Northern Ireland Executive, on the need to support the travel industry – not only to help preserve jobs and businesses, but also in recognition of the important role the travel industry will play in the economic recovery across the entire country.
ABTA also wants the Foreign Office to review its approach to travel advice, as the Government is currently advising against all but essential travel to the majority of destinations. It is encouraging the Government to allow for travel to countries where infection rates are comparable to or lower than the UK and where they have developed public health responses to the pandemic.
Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive of ABTA – The Travel Association said:
“While the recent developments around a vaccine and test to release have provided a boost to consumer confidence, with more enquiries and interest in booking holidays for next summer and into 2022, the start of 2021 will still be very challenging for the industry.
“All of the travel industry is struggling, but for some parts, like ski and long-haul operators, the coming months will be even more difficult. Nine months into this crisis, and with the ONS now clearly showing we’ve been the hardest hit service sector in the UK, travel businesses need help to get through the difficult months ahead.
“The Government also needs to ease its travel advice, allowing people to travel more freely. Yesterday the Scottish Government led the way by introducing specific funding for the travel industry – the UK Government, as well as those in Wales and Northern Ireland, needs to follow suit.”
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.