Abta is increasing pressure on MPs to support its demands to protect jobs and livelihoods in the sector with the launch of a Save Future Travel grassroots campaign.
The campaign is calling on anyone employed in the sector, their friends and families to lobby their local MPs to ensure the government sticks by its promise to protect jobs.
The trade association has already written to the Prime Minister and been in talks with government departments demanding regulatory changes and financial support to help travel firms survive the COVID-19 crisis.
On March 20, as the scale of the COVID-19 crisis became apparent, Abta created a templated letter to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson that members were encouraged to download to send to their local MPs setting out seven key demands of government.
Growing demands for refunds
Abta has launched savefuturetravel.co.uk which allows users to create an automated email to their local MP that highlights what the travel sector is asking of government.
Travel industry ‘on its knees’
The association said the UK travel industry employs more than 500,000 people directly and indirectly across the country and “this devastating crisis has brought it to its knees”.
Mark Tanzer, Abta chief executive, said: “Abta has been doing all it can on behalf of the industry to make it clear to government the devastating impact this crisis is having and to provide workable solutions to help them to do what it takes to support us.
“We now need additional help from colleagues, friends and supporters to make our industry voice as loud as possible. The time has come for the industry and anyone who loves to travel to get behind our campaign to Save Future Travel.
‘Whatever it takes’
“The chancellor promised UK businesses that he would do “whatever it takes” to help the country get through this pandemic, and we need the government to act. This crisis has created extraordinary difficulties for everyone, in ways that none of us could ever have predicted.
“Many sectors have been hit hard but few have been hit as hard as travel. The changes that we have asked for are reasonable, as has been shown by other governments taking similar action.”
Mirror European response call
Abta is calling on the UK government to act in the same way as governments have already done in France, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Germany, The Netherlands and Denmark, by agreeing temporary changes to the rules on refunds in the EU Package Travel Regulations to buy firms time.
The association said members have seen holiday bookings dry up while facing demands for refunds following the mass cancellations of future trips while still awaiting money back from airlines and hotels.
Hundreds of thousands of jobs ‘at risk’
“Without support from the government the reality is that businesses will go under, hundreds of thousands of jobs are at risk, and the taxpayer would be liable for billions of pounds of refunds that the Atol scheme won’t be able to cover,” Abta said.
Which? Travel editor Rory Boland responded, saying: “The travel industry is facing huge challenges due to the coronavirus crisis, so it is important that the government considers all options to support the industry and help it through this difficult period.
“However, it is vital that customers retain the right to claim their money back within a reasonable timeframe.
“Many customers have been left significantly out of pocket as a result of these cancellations at a time where they may desperately need the money – package holiday providers must not only do right by their customers, but fulfil their legal obligations and ensure they are processing refunds should their customers ask for one.”
How can you support Save Future Travel?
Abta is asking its membership, the wider travel and tourism industry, all travel agents and tour operators, their families, and anyone who supports the industry to:
1. Visit savefuturetravel.co.uk and send an electronic letter to MPs in support of the travel industry
2. Show support on social media with the following example posts: