Save Future Travel Coalition blog - What we need to hear from the Prime Minister on 22 February
No industry more urgently needs positive news from the Prime Minister on 22 February than the travel industry – the sector hit hardest by the pandemic, with many businesses and thousands of jobs already lost to the crisis. We need the Government to work with us on a roadmap to recovery and we hope Boris Johnson speaks to this in his address to the nation on Monday.
The travel industry, which plays such an important role in the UK economy, can’t afford to lose another summer season to the pandemic, nor can we wait for the full rollout of the vaccination programme before people start to travel. The Government must work to get people travelling in time for the summer, recognising that the return to normal life will never be entirely risk-free.
We don’t expect the Government to a provide specific date for a return to travel. It is clearly too early for that, as there are still a number of unknowns, including the effectiveness of the vaccine against new COVID variants and its ability to stop transmission of the virus. Full customer confidence will only return when these questions have been answered.
What we would like to hear from Government are the principles for restarting travel, including working with other countries to develop an internationally recognised vaccine certificate. This evidence, alongside testing, is certain to accelerate the reopening of travel. There also needs to be recognition that not everyone can or will want to be vaccinated, so a practical and cost-effective testing regime will be critical.
The Government also needs to move Foreign Office travel advice to a regional as opposed to a whole country basis, and ensure the advice focuses on the risk to a person in destination. The current bans on school trips and cruises also need to be reviewed in the light of an improving medical landscape. We will also call for coordination, where possible, between the four UK nations.
As we learnt from last year, travel’s recovery will be gradual, even once it starts, so it is important the Government provides tailored financial support by expanding the grant schemes available to support all travel businesses, and extending other financial support mechanisms, such as furlough, VAT deferrals, and business rates relief into the next financial year. That’s how we can once again have a thriving travel sector which contributes strongly to the UK’s post-pandemic economic recovery.
As well as a route forward for reopening travel, and tailored financial support for the sector, we need people to feel confident to book. Recent comments and predictions from senior ministers about not booking holidays this summer means bookings are drying up, creating further damage to a struggling industry. The Prime Minister’s address needs to ensure it not only delivers a roadmap but also instil confidence in future travel. Consumers should feel that they can make holiday bookings in the knowledge that, if the situation changes, they are protected by the package travel regulations and the additional flexibility that many travel companies are offering. ABTA has published advice for consumers on how to book with confidence this year.
Since the very start of the pandemic the travel industry has been lobbying Government on what the sector needs to get through and recover from the crisis. We have been working together as the Save Future Travel Coalition, in coordination with the Future of Aviation Group, to put forward a constructive and realistic route forward for travel and will continue to press the Government on its future plans for travel.
Save Future Travel Coalition:
ABTA – The Travel Association
Advantage Travel Partnership
AITO – The Specialist Travel Association
Keep Travel Alive
SPAA - Scottish Passenger Agents' Association
Seasonal Businesses in Travel
The Travel Network Group