Transport secretary Grant Shapps’ address to Abta’s Travel Convention today drew a sharp response from Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer who said “we’ve yet to see evidence” of the work Shapps has done for the sector.

Tanzer said the transport secretary appeared not to “take on board the fact that we are still in the middle of this crisis”.

Shapps had dismissed a suggestion the government was dragging its feet and insisted: “The contribution of travel to the economy is understood by everyone in government. There has been billions in support to the travel industry.”

Tanzer hit back, arguing: “Most travel corridors remain shut. Removing the blanket Foreign Office advice is crucial. In the UK, we now have a system of three tiers. We must be able to apply these same tests to regions overseas.”

Shapps outlined the work of the government’s Global Travel Taskforce, announced last week, saying: “The taskforce is working with the industry to implement a new test and release system which will mean a single test about a week after arrival.”

Tanzer pointed out: “The secretary of state said a lot of work has already been done, but we have yet to see evidence of that.

“We need to know how the logistical side of this is going to work.”

The Abta chief described Shapps’ response on sector-specific support for travel as “worrying”. Tanzer said: “Where is the evidence that aviation is a key strategic asset for the UK now?

“He has to go into bat for this sector. But we haven’t seen the evidence of what he is doing for his sector of the economy.”

Tanzer also warned: “Brexit has not gone way. So I was alarmed by the secretary of state’s response on that. He seems to be waiting for the EU.

“An early statement from him and from the EU [on aviation] is absolutely essential. We need systems in place to get customers confident they can travel again.”

However, Tanzer insisted: “The appetite for travel is still there. We need to get consumer confidence to travel back.”

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