New year, new challenges
As we enter 2023, we can look back on a year when international travel returned strongly, with the industry benefitting from the significant pent-up demand for travel that built up during the pandemic.
Inevitably, there was some disruption, especially over the early part of the summer, but that is to be expected given the industry had been largely mothballed for two years and emerged into staffing difficulties and associated operational challenges. Overall, though, Members deserve great credit for delivering under very difficult circumstances.
This year I am optimistic that the industry will continue to grow, but we must be adaptable, ready to come up with solutions over a range of challenges including the effects of the war in Ukraine, price rises which will affect business and living costs, as well as the recruitment and retention of staff in the face of stiff competition from other sectors.
Another demanding challenge for travel which will increasingly come to the fore this year, is its long-term aim to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. If we are to achieve this, the government must work with the industry to encourage investment in new technologies and sustainable fuels. There is a huge opportunity for the UK to lead the way in this area, but it requires a partnership approach and longer-term vision on behalf of policymakers.
On the regulatory front, the ATOL scheme and Package Travel Regulations (PTRs) are set for review in the coming year. Any potential restructuring must recognise that, over the years, ATOL and other statutory protections have really helped the industry maintain consumer confidence. If there are going to be changes, the industry must have sufficient time to adjust to the new status quo.
We will seek views from Members once the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)’s update on ATOL reform is published and consult fully on their new proposals once these are finalised. Additionally, we know the Government will look at the PTRs, with Ministers viewing this through the lens of the UK having departed the EU and seeking to utilise new regulatory freedoms. Once again, this will require a detailed conversation within the industry about what the future of consumer financial protection looks like and what frameworks can deliver the best balance between consumer confidence and business flexibility.
In terms of our direct services to Members, this year we will continue to offer our broad and very important menu, including financial protection options and legal advice, sustainability tools to help businesses adapt and make the most of increasing consumer interest in these matters, and government lobbying which will seek to influence the processes I've mentioned and continue to champion the importance of the travel and tourism sector to the UK economy.
Finally, as always, my focus will remain on making sure the ABTA team is available and ready to help Members whenever they need us. We all look forward to working with you in 2023.
Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive