‘Government unlikely to expand financial protection’

The Government will never expand the level of financial protection across the industry, partly because the industry did such a good job in the wake of the collapse of the XL Leisure Group.

Speaking at an e-tid agents breakfast briefing held at The Travel Convention, TUI Travel activity holidays sector managing director John Wimbleton warned the government was unlikely to change its attitude and force scheduled airlines to come under financial protection regulation.

He said: “We will have to live with it. If it [the collapse of XL] was still being dealt with and people had not been able to get home, we would have stood a better chance. Government ministers come and go, I just don’t think they are interested. Over the last ten years the airlines have been much better at lobbying.”

The merger of ABTA and the Federation of Tour Operators would give the industry a “better chance” of lobbying for a more level playing field, while the Civil Aviation Authority has a “very limited” ability to influence the government, he said.

He added: “In five years’ time we will have another failure and we will have the same problem again. All we can do is make sure we are looking after our customers. It’s like herding sheep.”

Thomas Cook scheduled businesses managing director Sue Biggs admitted the sector was faced with an uphill challenge but added: “We should not give up and let the politicians win.”

ABTA head of development Andy Cooper agreed the government had shown a “fundamental lack of interest” and remained far more focused on the domestic tourism market than on outbound tourism.

He said: “It frustates the hell out of me. But I think there is the willpower out of the XL crisis to do something about this confusion.”
More news from the ABTA Travel Convention 2008

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