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Travel industry holds day of action in bid for sector support

Written by: Emma Lunn
A coalition of travel companies and organisations are holding a ‘day of action’ to persuade the government to reopen the sector and give more financial support to businesses.

ABTA estimated last week that 195,000 people working in the UK travel industry have either lost their job or are at risk of losing their job due to the Covid-19 crisis. It’s one of a number of organisations calling for the government to provide tailored financial support to struggling businesses, and to safely restart travel so that businesses can generate income this summer.

About 800 people from the industry are expected to attend a lobby event at Westminster today, with a further 200 heading for Holyrood in Edinburgh and 100 due at a gathering in Belfast.

Travel agents, pilots, tour operators, aviation workers and cabin crew are among the thousands of people who want to put pressure on the government.

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

ABTA says that without a meaningful summer season 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.

The travel industry is particularly keen to see more countries on the green list for travel, and is calling for the removal of testing and quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated people travelling from green and amber countries.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said yesterday that quarantine-free travel for doubled-jabbed people was “absolutely something we’re working on”.

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 28 June.

The industry bodies behind today’s action – including ABTA, Airlines UK, the Business Travel Association, Airport Operators Association, UKinbound, and Advantage Travel Partnership – also say the government’s support through the crisis has been inadequate.

They are calling for the furlough scheme to be extended until April 2022 in recognition that the travel sector’s ability to trade and generate income is more gradual than for businesses in the domestic economy.

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.”

Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, 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.”

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