17 Apr

Value of UK’s travel industry needs full recognition

This column was first published in Travel Weekly on 17 April 2024

ABTA's Mark Tanzer says the association’s new manifesto makes a strong case as to why the government should put the right plans in place to support the growth and development of the sector.

Today we have launched ABTA's Manifesto for Travel and Tourism, which sets out the policy priorities the next government needs to work with our industry on, to deliver a sustainable and successful future for UK travel and tourism.

Data show that the UK’s travel and tourism industry – domestic, outbound and inbound – generates £150 billion a year for the UK economy, and supports over three million jobs.

Travel is an economic powerhouse whose growth over the next few years is expected to outpace that of the wider the UK economy.

This is a message I, and my ABTA colleagues, reinforce when we sit down with ministers, MPs and officials.

The value of the UK’s travel industry needs full recognition, and our new manifesto makes a strong case as to why the government needs to put the right plans in place to support the growth and development of our industry.

In particular, the manifesto highlights why outbound travel must be treated as an asset by the next administration, both in terms of the economic and employment contribution we make, but also, importantly, the benefits to individuals in terms of mental health and wellbeing.

Our manifesto reflects three priority areas for ABTA members:

  • Positioning the UK as a sustainable travel leader.
  • Promoting fulfilling and rewarding careers in travel and tourism.
  • Creating the conditions for travel businesses to compete successfully.

We’re already gaining traction for some of the policies we’re proposing, such as extending the youth mobility scheme to EU countries, which would help address some of the staffing shortages overseas. Similarly, we’ve heard positive noises about the work we’re doing to address the qualification gap which would arise under the government’s current plans to de-fund post-16 travel and tourism courses. This shows we’re being heard.

However, the resolution of these points, and the others addressed in the manifesto, will likely fall to the next government, and while today is the official launch of our manifesto, we have already been talking for some time to MPs and prospective parliamentary candidates – those who hope to win a seat at the next election – about these issues.

Our engagement has included visits and roundtables with ABTA members, as well as one to one meetings with MPs and candidates.

We are, of course, still waiting to hear from the government as to when the general election will be held – it must be called this year, and the latest it can take place is January 2025.

Whichever party wins, there will be a high degree of turnover given the number of MPs that are stepping down at the election – already over 100 MPs are confirmed to be leaving Westminster.

That’s why it is important we do the groundwork now – building relationships with the decision makers of the future, sharing our solutions and strengthening ABTA's solid reputation as the voice of the UK travel industry.

We are also encouraging our members to speak to their local MPs and candidates – and we have a range of briefings and template materials available to help with this task. Now is a great time to be doing this, as those who will be fighting for a seat in the next parliament want to hear from local businesses about what is happening in their constituencies.

The full ABTA manifesto and template materials can be found here