23 Jun

Travel industry calls on Government to safely reopen travel and provide financial support to help the sector get through the crisis

Pan industry Travel Day of Action – 23 June 

Travel agents, pilots, tour operators, aviation workers and cabin crew are among the thousands of people who will ‘speak up for travel’ today, as part of a Travel Day of Action, to put pressure on the Government to capitalise on the vaccine rollout by safely reopening travel for the summer season and provide tailored financial support to businesses.

The pandemic has been a catastrophe for the travel industry, closing borders, and even making most travel to and from the UK illegal for months on end. Data from ABTA estimates that as many as 195K jobs have been lost or are at risk within the travel industry1, with IATA research indicating that hundreds of thousands of aviation jobs are supported by the furlough scheme2.

Although travel is no longer illegal the industry says the Government has failed to deliver a restart to international travel as promised, by undermining the risk-based system Ministers established for a safe return to travel. In contrast, other countries are forging ahead with pragmatic, risk-based schemes that allow safe travel including most recently Germany, France and Spain.

Without a meaningful summer season – a crucial period of the year for travel businesses, airlines and airports – many thousands of livelihoods are at stake, as well as the ability of the travel sector to recover and reconnect the UK to the world.

As part of the Day of Action there are a range of events and activities happening across the UK including 800 people attending an organised lobby outside Parliament in London, 200 people at an event in Holyrood in Edinburgh and 100 gathering in Belfast. There will be a virtual lobby in Cardiff, as well as activities at a range of UK airports, and meetings with MPs locally and campaigning on social media.

The industry bodies behind today’s Day of Action – including ABTA, Airlines UK, the Business Travel Association, Airport Operators Association, UKinbound, Advantage Travel Partnership, The Travel Network Group (see end for full list) – also say the UK Government’s support through the crisis has been inadequate.

While other sectors have received tailored support, such as grant schemes, the story is quite different for travel, with many travel businesses excluded from the general grant support available and others only able to access the bare minimum. Airlines and airports, meanwhile, have taken on billions of pounds of debt – raised privately and through Government loans schemes – that will have to be paid back.

As a result, many businesses are struggling to survive - 57% of SME travel agents said they would not have the cash to survive more than three months based on current trading conditions and available Government support3.

The Travel Day of Action has support from the UK’s major airlines and tour operators as well as hundreds of small independent travel agents and leisure and business travel agents. Collectively they are calling on the UK Government to:

  • Allow international travel to return safely and in a risk managed way by properly implementing the Global Travel Taskforce’s plan for a traffic-light system, by expanding the green list in line with the evidence and making restrictions more proportionate, whilst keeping a strong red list to guard against variants. Government should also capitalise on the success of the vaccine rollout by removing testing and quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated individuals travelling from green and amber countries.
  • Bring forward a package of tailored financial support, including extension of furlough support until April 2022, recognising that the travel sector’s ability to trade and generate income is much slower than first anticipated and more gradual than for businesses in the domestic economy.

The Government is expected to provide an update on the traffic light list within the next week, and a review of the requirements for international travel is due on 28th June.

Despite international travel significantly being curtailed, meaning businesses still have little opportunity to generate income, companies will be subject to the 10% rise in furlough costs at the end of the month, and payments towards business rates for travel agents will also go up.

Derek Jones, CEO of Kuoni said:
“The outbound travel sector has been decimated by this pandemic and by the Government’s haphazard response to it.  Today, we have joined together to call upon Ministers to acknowledge that the restrictions they have placed on international travel are having a deep and devastating impact on travel businesses.  We are united in one message today: we want to see the safe re-opening of international travel alongside targeted financial support for businesses which have not been able to trade for well over a year.”

Jackie Steadman, owner of independent travel agency, Traveltime World, which has been in operation for 27 years said:
“The past 16 months have been devasting for us as a business. We have had no income - in fact we have been giving all our profit back in the form of refunds – as travel agents only get paid when clients actually travel. Holidays and international travel just haven't happened. The future outlook is very bleak. If the Government doesn’t open up travel so that people can travel in greater numbers over the summer period, we will be forced to make staff redundant at the end of the furlough in September, and we don't see how we can survive as a business without any income. We desperately need dedicated sector support to help us pay our overheads and staff while the industry is allowed to slowly re-start, and we need international travel to have a meaningful return.”

Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK, said:
“It is now or never for the Government to reopen travel and save what is remaining of the summer season, not just for families desperate to get away but the tens of thousands of jobs which rely upon this once thriving sector. Airlines are at the absolute limit of what they can borrow and without a genuine reopening this summer they will require Government support to survive. The best way to save UK aviation is to enable a return to the skies – safely – by taking advantage of our vaccine dividend and allowing fully vaccinated passengers to travel without restrictions from amber and green countries. This is now happening across much of Europe and the UK is in grave danger of needlessly falling behind.”

Rob Russell, CEO of AC Group, an inbound operator said:
“Our company and our industry have been decimated by the impact of the virus and the lack of Government support. We need them to actively engage with us and understand how the industry actually works, and why the current support structure isn’t fit for purpose in the travel industry, so we can help the UK to build back better.”

Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association (BTA) said:
“Today’s day of action highlights the dire straits of our industry. The travel sector remains in lockdown as the rest of the country opens-up. Business travel is essential for the UK economy and our ability to trade on the international stage. The Government must provide targeted support and extend the green list at its next review.”

Airport Operators Association Chief Executive Karen Dee said:
“Summer 2020 saw the lowest numbers of passenger travelling through UK airports since 1975 due to the pandemic. This has had a devastating impact on jobs and airports have lost billions in revenue. Airports play a critical role in their communities. Unless the Government makes a meaningful restart of international travel possible, this summer may be worse than 2020, putting more jobs in those communities at risk. The Government cannot afford to let those jobs go.”

In normal times, UK residents’ travel overseas, whether on business, for holidays, or to see families and friends, generated over £53bn in domestic spending. In addition, the inbound industry catered for the 41 million tourists, travellers and business people arriving on our shores, spending £28.4bn in our world-class cities and attractions.

Notes to editors
1 Estimates based on a calculation which uses CEBR data and responses from ABTA Member Survey, March 2021, with results from a representative sample of the ABTA Membership.  
2 IATA data fines around 860,000 aviation, travel and tourism jobs were lost or sustained only due to government furlough schemes https://www.iata.org/en/pressroom/pr/2021-02-18-01/
3 ABTA Member Survey, March 2021, with results from a representative sample of the ABTA Membership.  

Key facts

  • As the third most internationally connected country in the world, we enabled tens of millions of UK residents to travel overseas, whether on business, for holidays, or to see families and friends, generating over £53bn in domestic spending.
  • Each year 41 million tourists, travellers and business people visit the UK, spending £28.4bn in our world-class cities and attractions.
  • London, the world's number one most connected city in 2019, saw an 88% decline in connectivity between April 2019 and April 2021.
  • The UK as a whole has fallen to number twenty in IATA's rankings from being the fifth best connected country in 2019.

About the Travel Day of Action
Full details about the Travel Day of Action can be found at www.abta.com/traveldayofaction.

As well as the events in London, Edinburgh and Belfast, there are also media events at a number of airports including Belfast International, Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Heathrow, Luton, Manchester and Southend. 

Those taking part in the Day of action will be using the following hashtags:

The day of action has been organised by a pan-industry group of travel and aviation bodies and trade unions including:

1.    ABTA – The Travel Association
2.    Advantage Travel Partnership 
3.    The African Travel and Tourism Association (ATTA)
4.    Airlines UK
5.    Airport Operators Association
6.    AITO – the specialist travel association
7.    Association of Northern Ireland Travel Agents (ANITA)
8.    Association of Touring and Adventure Suppliers (ATAS) 
9.    The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK)
10.    British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA)
11.    The Business Travel Association (BTA) 
12.    Cruise Lines International Association UK & Ireland (CLIA)
13.    GMB
14.    IATA
15.    Keep Travel Alive
16.    The Latin American Travel Association (LATA)
17.    The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)
18.    Prospect
19.    Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA)
20.    Seasonal Businesses in Travel (SBIT)
21.    The Travel Network Group (TTNG) 
22.    UKinbound 
23.    Unite the Union

Notes to editors
ABTA has been a trusted travel brand for over 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.