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ABTA calls on government to save travel jobs

Written by: Emma Lunn
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) estimates that more than 90,000 jobs have already been affected in the travel industry.

ABTA has set out new plans entitled Save Future Travel and has written to chancellor Rishi Sunak with a plan of how to build consumer confidence and save jobs in the industry.

Following a survey of its members, ABTA found that 39,000 jobs have already been lost or placed at risk across the outbound travel sector since the crisis started.

STA Travel is the latest travel firm to enter administration. Others include Voyager Travel and Cruise and Maritime Voyages.

Meanwhile Hays Travel is cutting up to 878 jobs and Tui is shutting 166 high street stores.

When supply chains are also considered the number amounts to more than 90,000 people affected.

ABTA says that the situation when it comes to jobs in the travel industry has reached “a critical point”, with measures to control the pandemic affecting the market.

It has asked Sunak for tailored support in the form of a package of measures to support businesses and employees.

ABTA says the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been a significant help for businesses in the travel industry, with nine in 10 businesses taking part in the scheme to support staff.

However, 65% of businesses have either had to make redundancies or have started a consultation process.

Despite this, there is optimism that the travel industry can recover, if offered the right support by government, with four in 10 businesses confident travel can return to 2019 levels by 2022.

Regionalised quarantine rules

ABTA says that to help the travel industry recover the government should adopt a regionalised approach to quarantine rules.

The travel association says it is difficult to see how the UK can reopen travel to critical trade partners, including the US, in the foreseeable future without a regional approach to Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice and quarantine rules.

Incentivise travel

ABTA says that if the travel industry is to retain the maximum number of jobs, it is vital that consumers are incentivised to book holidays.

With the peak booking season starting from December, ABTA is urging the government to use the Autumn Budget to announce an Air Passenger Duty (APD) holiday covering Summer 2021.

Covid testing

ABTA is also calling on the government to introduce a coronavirus testing regime to enable travel to resume to major global trading partners and mitigate the risk of infection from high risk countries.

Business support measures

ABTA’s plan also calls for recovery grants and other business support measures.

It says travel agents receive the majority of their income through commission that is paid when trips depart, so these businesses will need support to get them through to the next major travel period next Easter.

It suggests the government could support travel businesses by issuing another round of grants, based on those offered to retail, hospitality, and leisure businesses earlier in the crisis, and extending other business support measures into 2021/22.

Ongoing salary support

With the furlough scheme drawing to a close at the end of October, ABTA says the government should consider extending support for businesses that have not seen a significant recovery in revenues.

It says targeting salary support where it is needed until March 2021 would reduce the cost to the government and could preserve tens of thousands of jobs in travel.

“A critical point”

Mark Tanzer, ABTA’s chief executive, says: “With the government’s stop start measures, the restart of travel has not gone as hoped for the industry, and sadly businesses continue to be adversely affected and jobs are being lost at an alarming rate. Coming towards the end of the traditional period for peak booking, we have hit a critical point as existing government measures to support businesses begin to taper off, the consequence of which, according to this survey of ABTA members will be ruinous for more people’s livelihoods.

“Travel desperately needs the government in its next review to provide tailored support or tens of thousands more jobs will be lost. We have already seen well-known and respected businesses that would normally be successful falling into administration, and more are sadly set to follow unless the government can Save Future Travel.”

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