Travel agent receives ‘laughable’ £390 Additional Restrictions Grant

Travel agencies continue to face “huge inconsistencies” when applying for Additional Restrictions Grants (ARGs) as the Treasury was accused of “overlooking” the industry in last week’s Budget.

Agents have been seeking government support, distributed by local councils, as businesses “severely impacted by [Covid] restrictions”.

Jon Haworth, owner of Accrington-based Best Destinations, said the “laughable” £390 he was offered by Hyndburn Borough Council would cover about half a month’s rent.

Haworth, who initially used a £100-an-hour accountant to help with his ARG application, vowed to “explore every avenue” to appeal.

“I would love to know how the council got to that figure,” he said.

Haworth calculated his business was between £90,000 and £100,000 down due to Covid, before which he had targeted an annual turnover of £1 million. Best Destinations has received £18,000 in government support since Covid struck, but had hoped to recruit and train a new staff member before 2022’s peaks if the ARG grant had been larger.

Abta has encouraged agents to be “persistent” with applications and recently highlighted £300 million of unallocated funds across England.

As of August 29, Hyndburn council had £418,188 in ARG cash to distribute to local businesses.

Elsewhere in Lancashire, Strawberry Holidays founder Kate Holroyd said Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council had not responded to her weekly calls since August. She believes an ARG grant would “keep my door open”, adding: “I’m paying back my ‘bounce-back’ loan with no revenue.”

Gary Lewis, chief executive of The Travel Network Group, pledged to help both Global Travel Group members appeal the decisions.

“Our members have reported huge inconsistencies across different local authorities, because the ARG is a discretionary grant,” he said, noting how some members “have received regular funding” and others “have not received anything, or very little”.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak made no mention of targeted financial aid for travel businesses in last week’s Budget.

Despite announcing a year-long 50% cut on business rates that will offer some relief to high street agencies, Sunak was accused of ignoring travel’s pleas for support.

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