Travel sector ‘left in the cold’ by Chancellor’s Covid support package

·3-min read

Travel bosses claim the sector has been “left in the cold” by Chancellor Rishi Sunak after he announced financial support for the hospitality industry.

Cancellations for overseas trips have surged following the introduction of tougher coronavirus testing and self-isolation rules for people arriving in the UK.

Clive Wratten, chief executive of the Business Travel Association, said: “It is devastating to see that once again business travel and its supply chain have been left out of Government financial support.

“It’s imperative that the arts, hospitality and leisure are given help through the latest wave of the pandemic.

“However, a vital part of the UK economy and the driver behind global Britain is being left in the cold.

“We urgently need the Treasury to correct this oversight and support our industry into 2022.

“This is the only way for there to be a safe return to international travel when conditions allow.”

Luke Petherbridge, director of public affairs for travel trade organisation Abta, claimed Mr Sunak’s announcement “ignores the direct impact of Government policy decisions on businesses reliant on international travel”.

He said: “Travel agents, tour operators and travel management companies will rightly be asking why they haven’t been given the same treatment as other businesses that are suffering at this time.

“Average annual revenue across the travel industry is down by nearly 80% on pre-crisis levels even before Omicron emerged, and the reintroduction of enhanced testing – both pre and post-arrival – have added significant costs and notably dampened consumer demand.

“As the sector approaches what should be the peak sales period for booking holidays for summer 2022, businesses are instead facing another round of heart-breaking and demoralising cancellations, with no indication that the Government is listening to the challenges they are facing.”

Mr Petherbridge urged the Government to lift “unnecessary travel restrictions” immediately, provide grants to the travel sector which are similar to those announced for hospitality, and consider the need for the furlough scheme to be reintroduced.

Airport Operators Association chief executive Karen Dee claimed Mr Sunak “time and again overlooks our sector when he announces sector-specific support measures”.

She continued: “Our airport competitors in the US, Germany and Italy have received generous grants so they can maintain their critical operations and be ready for the recovery.

“The lack of significant Government support means that the UK’s aviation connectivity recovery will be longer and harder than the recoveries of our competitors.

“This will hurt UK jobs, damage our economy and undermine the UK Government’s global Britain ambitions.”

Rain Newton-Smith, CBI chief economist, said the international travel and tourism sector “remains disappointingly out of scope despite the heavy toll it has taken for many months”.

Meanwhile a group of more than 30 cross-party MPs and peers have signed a letter urging Boris Johnson to “take action in support of our aviation, travel and tourism industries”.

It is “simply unacceptable” that new rules which have dampened demand for travel have been brought in “with no additional financial support to protect jobs, businesses and the communities who depend on a thriving aviation sector”, they wrote.

The group called for the cost of travel tests to be capped or met by the state, and for restrictions to be lifted “as soon as possible”.

They added: “The risks are simply too high for a sector already battered by the pandemic, and we urge you to take action in the coming days.”

The parliamentarians were led by Henry Smith, the Tory MP for Crawley – which includes Gatwick Airport – and chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Future of Aviation.

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