30 Sep

Government support needed as furlough ends

The relaxation of testing requirements for fully vaccinated travellers next month will, we hope, open up travel to more destinations and encourage more people to travel. But we’re making clear to Ministers that this isn’t a case of ‘problem solved’ for the travel industry - far from it; many travel businesses still face extreme difficulties. 
There are several important policy areas that need attention. For example, the UK’s extensive red list – which covers a far greater number of countries than many of our European neighbours’ – is keeping large parts of the globe, such as Latin America and Africa, effectively closed. The specialist travel companies who offer holidays to these destinations have no way of making money and we are urging the Government to review their cautious approach. Similarly, we’re continuing to urge the Foreign Office to move away from issuing destination advice against travel based on COVID. It is welcome in this area that advice covering many popular destinations including Egypt, the Maldives and Sri Lanka has been removed over the last couple of days.
We also need to see the removal of the requirement for PCR tests on Day 2 completed before the half-term holidays in October. This will encourage family groups to get away and provide a much needed boost for travel agents and tour operators.
However, while the recent moves are welcome, the Government also needs to appreciate that changes around testing have come very late in the day – the main travel period for most businesses is now behind us, and travel companies have had two summers of lost revenue. 
As well as working to remove the barriers to travel, the Government needs to look at how it can support these businesses – particularly as the furlough scheme comes to an end – through a package of tailored financial support, including extending business rates relief and a specific grant scheme for travel companies.
We have been active in the media today, particularly with the BBC, to reinforce these messages.
We also are continuing to make these points to Government and MPs, including in our Budget submission, which is going in this week ahead of the Chancellor’s statement on 27 October, and in evidence to the Transport Select Committee, which is currently holding an inquiry into what is needed for the recovery of aviation and travel.
I would also like to remind Members of the services we have available including access to specialist expertise from ABTA Partners, such as the Employment Law Helpline which gives you 30 minutes of free advice, and business resilience webinars which Members can attend or watch on demand free of charge. Members can also join and submit questions to the bi-weekly conference calls which give the latest information and guidance on important industry topics, and the Member Support team is available to offer any further guidance you may need.

Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive