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Agents say latest lockdown grants are not enough

Agents have expressed frustration at the news of fresh lockdown grants, saying the government and councils must do more to support the travel sector.

On Tuesday morning (January 5), Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a £4.6 billion support package for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses forced to close in the latest lockdown – but many agents say it is not enough and some are falling through the cracks.

Gemma Antrobus, owner of Haslemere Travel, said the grants were “unlikely to even scratch the surface for travel companies who have no other way of making any earnings if clients do not travel”.

“Like my dad would say, it’s like giving a donkey just one oat,” she said.

She said there are still “crippling” costs for agents who have staff on furlough and have to pay rent.

“The grant is not enough and the government fails to listen to experts in the travel industry,” she said. “I cannot earn as my clients cannot travel.”

She highlighted how hospitality fares well in comparison to travel, as it has just one government department overseeing its problems.

“We report to several government departments and they have been passing the buck for nine months,” she said. “What has happened with the travel taskforce?”

Phil Nuttall, chief executive of The Travel Village Group, has written to Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer, urging the association to highlight the issue of support for businesses that don’t qualify for the government grants.

He wrote: “My local MP Scott Benton has been extremely supportive of the travel industry and understands our sector-specific problems, not least the fact that we haven’t been able to take full advantage of furlough, especially in the first nine months when we had to pay people to give guests their money back, plus the credit card charges.

“He has confirmed that awareness now needs to be made of the new funds to get local councils and MPs to realise that travel businesses must be recognised and a sector-specific grant agreed by MPs and councils to ring fence money for travel agents.”

Julie Franklin, head of agency sales at Hotelplan UK, also highlighted the plight of the trade.

She tweeted: “Rishi Sunak, are you going to help travel agents & tour operators? We can’t book holidays as [international] travel is banned & we have to refund all earnings on sold holidays because we can’t fulfil the consumers holiday? Can’t close as need to administer existing bookings #workingfornothing.”

Antrobus urged agents to apply as soon as possible for the grants, adding: “Don’t let the negativity of this time affect how you push on during the next six weeks; we have done nine months already.

“There is an end in sight at half-term in February.”

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