16 Jun

Let’s work together to speak up for travel on the Travel Day of Action

The last few weeks have perhaps been some of the darkest ever for the travel industry. When you have a government hellbent on restricting travel – ignoring the very system it put in place to safely reopen our industry – then it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The lack of tailored financial support only adds insult to injury. Frustration, anger, and worry grows. 

We share the feelings of despair that I know many of you have and know how important it is for us to keep pushing and to make sure travel is on the political and media agenda, which is why we are working with partners across the sector on the Travel Day of Action. 

I also understand that some people are upset about the plans for the day and confused as to why there isn’t a larger, open protest. 

We have always been clear that the Westminster event is an organised lobby and media event as explained in our original communications – it is not a march or protest. That’s because there are some logistical things that we just can’t get away from. 

It is not possible to deliver a larger event in the timescales available, and we were keen to act ahead of the next review and while we have momentum with us. Regrettably, we have been set the 400-person capacity limit by the Met police and Westminster City Council. The council also informed us that the larger location, Parliament Square, which is nearby and often facilitates larger events is currently off limits. To maximise attendance, we have split the event into two slots – meaning we can get 800 people to take part. That requires us to put something in place to manage registrations.

I know it seems ridiculous to ticket a protest – it is not something we would normally consider - but we are still in the middle of a pandemic, the Government has delayed the domestic unlocking and we risk being viewed as an irresponsible industry if we were to facilitate anything that puts safety at risk. To have the greatest impact, and get the support we want and desperately need, we have do everything with COVID protocols and health and safety in mind.

I know some people feel like this is not enough, and people have questioned why travel doesn’t just do an illegal protest of their own. There are two things I would say to that.

One, doing an illegal protest would be a big risk and one the industry can’t afford to take right now. The public and media reaction would not be the same for an industry protest, as it has been for other protests that have been about social justice issues, no matter how important it is to show the impact on people’s jobs and livelihoods. Thousands of people descending on Westminster would only serve to turn MPs away and create negative national news headlines. That is the last thing we want right now at such a critical time for the sector.

It is also important to remember that the event in Westminster is just one of a number of activities taking place during the Travel Day of Action that people can get involved in. There will be a huge virtual and media engagement drive including with template social media posts and graphics, and template press releases and advice for engaging your local media for everyone to use. We want everyone to get involved, whether you can be with us in person or not.

There are also in-person events taking place in Edinburgh and Belfast, as well as a virtual lobby being organised in Cardiff. Other public events were looked into, but we couldn’t find organisations to manage and deliver those. We’re also hopeful there might be an opportunity to organise some managed stunts at airports around the country, which wouldn’t be public events, but would help with media activity and profile for the day.
We speak to MPs and media on a daily basis and we know that there is support and sympathy out there for the travel industry. The Day of Action is an opportunity to build on this, and we’re confident that will happen, as long as it is done in a responsible way. I know from my regular conversations and exchanges with agents and operators across the industry just how desperate many of you are to share your stories and make your voices heard in the right way. 

If you have a slot to attend the event in Westminster, then I look forward to seeing you there. Just a reminder to please use the templates to contact your MPs ahead of the day and to seek a meeting with them on College Green. If those are secured, please let ABTA know as we’re coordinating on behalf of the sector. We are already aware of a number of meetings agreed for the day, which is great and shows that people are engaging as intended. 

Thank you to everyone who has already done so, or who is eager to get involved. We will keep everyone updated and we’re regularly updating the assets and tools available at www.abta/traveldayofaction.
Let’s act together and speak up for travel on the Travel Day of Action.

Luke Petherbridge, Director of Public Affairs at ABTA – The Travel Association