The UK boss of Tui Travel has lambasted the government for a perceived lack of interest in the outbound travel sector.

Johan Lundgren, managing director of Tui UK and Ireland, was speaking at the Abta Travel Matters half day conference in London.

His criticisms came after the government was accused of ignoring outbound’s contribution to the UK economy in the recently published Tourism Strategy.

Tourism minister Philip Hammond has said he believes the outbound sector to be thriving and not in need of government support.

Lundgren told Travel Matters delegates: “Outbound tourism in Britain needs more government support. Successive governments have failed to recognise the value and benefit outbound tourism provides to the UK economy.

“When talking about inbound versus outbound tourism, we want the government to acknowledge that outbound tourism starts at home. People pay to get to the airport. In our case they pay to get to 20 different regional airports across Great Britain.

“When they get there, they spend money in the shops and restaurants in and around those 20 airports across Great Britain.

“Many of them have chosen to get to those 20 airports because they have been into one of our First Choice or Thomson shops and chosen a holiday with us. That could have been at any one of the 825 shops we have on high streets – again, the length and breadth of Great Britain.

“Those high streets need support – they need to be vibrant for all those people that will choose to holiday in this country. In our shops our customers will have met some of my 16,000 colleagues. That’s 16,000 people that we employ and train at a time when the UK economy needs all the jobs it can get.

“It is disappointing that successive governments have not kept pace with the link between outbound tourism and a vibrant UK economy.”

Lundgren used the address to repeat calls for a level playing field on consumer protection and a fair policy on aviation taxes, particularly with European Emissions Trading due to come in next year, adding to rising levels of APD.

He said: “We must certainly pay our fair share towards the overall tax bill, but no more than our fair share. We certainly do more than our fair share when things go wrong. Let’s just remember that ash cloud again briefly.

“At the time, we operated as insurer of last resort, repatriating nearly 100,000 people who had been stranded across the globe, often providing all sorts of transport when none were forthcoming from other sources.”