ABTA Travel Convention logoThe travel industry needs to start lobbying hard to ensure parts of it do not become the victim of government policy and austerity measures.


Clive Jacobs, chairman of TWgroup, told The Travel Convention he was appalled by some of the current policies relating to taxation and Heathrow expansion.


He said the government had to look at the consequences of its decisions and at the cost, in terms of jobs and livelihoods, if it taxed people out of flying.


“If by increasing taxes to stop people flying you cost people their jobs, that comes with a much greater human cost,” he said.


“Governments do not work like entrepreneurs. Everything governments do is short-term. Sadly, I think we are in terrible danger of this industry being hit hard by this government.”


Bringing up a subject touched on by Willie Walsh, the BA chief executive who spoke earlier in the day, Jacobs said the decision not to allow a third runway at Heathrow was “ridiculous”.


“Sometimes we just do not think about the impact on our economy. At Madrid they have built runways and they are going to use them,” he added.


Jacobs suggested UK travellers might use Madrid as a transit hub to avoid paying increased long-haul APD charges.


The Holiday Autos founder said entrepreneurs who work 18 hours a day to make the economy work should be viewed as the “real superheroes” in society.


Asked about setting up a business in a recession, he said: “If you can start a business in a recession and succeed then you will have a successful business.


“There is an awful lot of change and a period of change is a good time to get stuck into a business. It’s a great opportunity, whether you are buying a business or starting a business, because it sets the disciplines in place which means the business is sustainable.


“What happens in good times is people start getting careless and making investments they do not need to make. If the business is not run tightly, particularly in this sector where margins are so poor, then that can spell trouble.”


Jacobs added that all travel businesses had to embrace inevitable change and travel agents had to seize the opportunities that are out there.


“Consumers are looking for service. There is so much information out there, I think it’s an opportunity for the travel industry to prove its worth,” he added.


“Travel agents really do have relevance, really do have a place. It’s about not constantly sitting back and hoping people will walk through the door.


“There are still an awful lot of travel agents but business has moved on and those that are flexible and nimble will survive and prosper.”