Travel agents have backed calls by Abta urging firms to apply for a share of £300 million set aside for Covid support grants that has not yet been spent by local councils.
The association flagged the surplus funding from English councils on Tuesday, and urged travel business “to be persistent” with their applications for support. It has written to ministers to remind them of the government’s guidance to prioritise companies “severely impacted by the extended restrictions” – which includes travel firms.
David Moon, head of business development at Advantage Travel Centres, said: “Over the summer Advantage has been highlighting to members there are still grant funds available and encouraging members to apply as quickly as possible.
“Feedback from the membership indicates most, if not all, members have indeed applied and received their grants, despite some members having their grants initially refused. It’s important for agents to be persistent.”
Gary Lewis, chief executive of The Travel Network Group, said: “We know that many business in the industry have been severely impacted by the pandemic and, despite the relaxing of restrictions, are struggling to balance cash flow with wage bills.
“We’ve been working with our members in the last month to lobby their MPs as well as contact their local authorities to access funding. Despite the government saying help is and has been available, our members are reporting huge inconsistencies between local authorities offering discretionary grants.
He added: “Despite funding being available, travel businesses are still not recognised as a sector at-risk. To enable people to keep their businesses afloat and support their families the government needs to ensure consistency of approach from authority to authority so that these funds can be accessed by businesses in need.”
Richard Slater, owner of Co-op Travel Consortium member Henbury Travel in Macclesfield, and northwest chairman of Abta, said agents should “not be frightened” of applying for support grants, and mentioned other grants that firms may be able to take advantage of.
“I have had a Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) grant for new laptops for us to work at home and I am applying for grants to help with ‘new ways of working’ so I can take on a homeworker and buy furniture in the shop to enable us to sit socially distanced,” he said.
“Applying for grants is hard work and challenging – it is a lot of effort – but I am entitled to the money. For the LEP grant I had to get three quotes, it was a lot of malarky, but I have £5,000 for new equipment.”