The Institute of Travel and Tourism is calling on government to implement immediate, short-term measures to help travel businesses survive the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The plea for help to the Treasury and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport consists of a series of urgent requests, which it said were based on the needs of its 2,000 senior travel industry decision-makers.

The ITT has asked the government for the following coronavirus measures:

  • suspend business rates and provide short term subsidies of staff wages
  • freeze mortgage payments
  • ensure banks are sympathetic to businesses in need of financial help and give details on how this will work in practical terms
  • urge banks to pass on recent interest rate reductions to businesses
  • freeze all payments to government, including VAT, PAYE and general revenue, such as business rates
  • legislate change to allow operators and cruise lines to issue ‘refund credits’ instead of cash repayments to holidaymakers whose holidays are no longer going ahead.

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ITT chairman Steven Freudmann said: “This is a genuine crisis. It is completely unprecedented. We are looking for short-term fixes to help us get through this crisis.

“We are sufficiently optimistic it will not go on for long. It is better to keep businesses in place and keep staff working by subsiding them for a period of time, otherwise companies will go down and they [employees] will all be applying for employment benefit.”

On the issue of refund credits instead of cash refunds, Freudmann admitted this would require a change in the current Package Travel Regulations.

He added: “We are saying the government should legislate to change the law to allow travel organisations to allow credits instead of cash for a short term. In some cases the monies received by operators have been passed on to hotels or airlines and there is no guarantee they will get that money back.”

Freudman said the ITT was now also looking at postponing its own conference, due to be held in Istanbul in June.

“We are negotiating with various suppliers and airlines to see about postponing the conference. We cannot ignore what is happening,” he said.