ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer has called on the UK government to appoint a minister with dedicated responsibility for outbound travel, claiming the travel industry feels like a “political orphan”.
Addressing delegates at the organisation’s Travel Convention in London, Tanzer criticised the government for its failure to understand and support an industry that its own data shows has been the longest and hardest hit.
“I’ve said previously that the UK’s outbound travel sector – which accounts for a quarter of a million jobs directly, and the same number again in its extended supply chain – feels like a political orphan – dealing and pleading with a host of government departments, none of which see outbound travel as their primary concern, or their special responsibility,” he said.
“This challenge has always dogged our industry, and the pandemic has thrown the problem into sharp relief. I repeat the call on government to give one of its ministers dedicated responsibility for outbound travel, whose issues immediately impact not only thousands of jobs across the country, but the happiness and health of tens of millions of British tourists.”
Tanzer also called for ongoing support for the travel industry which is “on a much shallower recovery trajectory to other sectors, such as UK retail, or UK hospitality”.
“It’s too early to speak of recovery, and I’m acutely aware of how many of our members are still perilously close to the cliff edge – but there are signs that the darkest clouds may be breaking up.”
He continued: “Our members are still starved of cash. Despite the more positive outlook, it will take time for travel to get fully back on its feet. We urgently need the Chancellor to extend business support measures, which will for some members will mean the difference between survival and failure.”
Tanzer said that although travel restrictions are easing, there is work to be done to consider how unvaccinated passengers can be freed to travel, and how vaccine certification around the world can be harmonised.
“As we move, hopefully, out of Covid-19, we need to build on the painful lessons of the last 18 months to prevent the next epidemic from bringing travel, and economies, to a grinding halt. The travel industry, public health bodies, and governments must put in place – at a national and supra-national level – cross-border protocols for data sharing, testing, selective quarantining and vaccine sharing and certification to absorb the shock of any future outbreaks, allowing businesses to continue to trade, and travellers to continue to move.”
Tanzer said ABTA’s most recent customer research shows ‘intention to travel’ for the next 12 months is “heading back close to pre-Covid levels”, but added that intention does not necessarily translate into bookings.