Travel firms claim minister’s withdrawal from conference is ‘symbolic’

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Travel sector bosses expressed their dismay after the aviation minister withdrew from a planned speech at a major industry conference.

Robert Courts pulled out of Tuesday’s Travel Matters summit, organised by travel association Abta.

This was due to “a late diary clash” which emerged towards the end of last week, Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said.

He said he would have asked Mr Courts how the Government “justifies a position” of warning against holidays in amber list countries, which has “further damaged the immediate prospects for international travel”.

Mr Tanzer added: “His absence today – necessary as I’m sure it is – is nonetheless symbolic of a wide, in fact widening, gap between Government and the outbound travel sector.”

Andrew Flintham, managing director of the UK’s largest tour operator, Tui, commented: “It is incredibly disappointing that the aviation minister didn’t come to speak with us all today.

“There is no doubt the Government needs to hear what we have to say as an industry, and this once again feels like a sign that they’re not.”

Derek Jones, chief executive of luxury travel firm Kuoni, wrote on Twitter: “This Government’s lack of respect for the travel industry is staggering.”

Sophie Griffiths, editor of Travel Trade Gazette, posted a messaged to Mr Courts which read: “Would love to know which diary appointment was more important than showing up to a conference to speak to a sector you represent that has never been more desperate to hear from you.

“The fact this wasn’t a priority for you speaks volumes @robertcourts. Shame on you.”

The Department for Transport said it would not comment on why Mr Courts did not speak at the event.

Mr Flintham added: “We have not managed to get one meeting with our Prime Minister or Chancellor of the Exchequer.

“There has been no katsu curry photo moment opportunity for us.

“Instead, we’ve had ministers giving mixed messages about not booking holidays, telling people not to travel, and ministers announcing that travel is actually dangerous.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak was photographed doing a stint as a waiter at a Wagamama restaurant in July 2020 to promote a Government scheme encouraging people to visit restaurants.

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