Travel agents have been explicitly referenced in amended lockdown regulations published by the UK government, confirming their eligibility for business support grants.

Agencies are now listed among the non-essential retail businesses ordered to close under Tier 4 restrictions in England, meaning some who were denied Localised Restrictions Support Grants before the national lockdown can now prove they are entitled.

All areas of the UK have now entered restrictions forcing non-essential retail to close as a result of the national lockdown announced on Monday.

Abta, which had lobbied for the clarification, said the move ends a “postcode lottery” on whether agencies in England are entitled to grants under Tier 4.

Devolved nations had already clarified that grants support for businesses in the highest levels of restrictions would be extended to retail travel agents. The UK government has now made the same commitment for England.

Luke Petherbridge, director of public affairs at Abta, said: “Securing grant funding for travel businesses has been a key focus of Abta’s work in recent months. The confirmation from the UK Government today builds on actions by the devolved administrations on this matter and should bring an end to the postcode lottery of grants experienced by agents.

“We are pleased to see the government has listened to our calls for clarification and acted on it today. We also believe it should mean that travel agents are eligible for the Retail, Hospitality, and Leisure businesses grants [announced this week in response to a third national lockdown], although we are still awaiting the specific government guidance on this.”

Petherbridge called on the government to go further by providing sector-specific support for the outbound travel industry, which the industry has been calling for since travel bans were first introduced at the start of the pandemic.

He added: “While accessing the grant schemes will provide some help to struggling businesses, these are related to the lockdown and stay at home orders. We have not yet seen sector-specific support to take account of the unique challenges that the travel industry has faced throughout the last ten months, including frequent changes to travel corridors, and restrictions on many destinations across the globe through FCDO travel advice, which have seriously affected the ability of businesses to trade.

“Abta will continue to push for tailored support, including the urgency of getting financial help to those who have not been able to access existing support mechanisms, such as directors of limited companies, and the many travel businesses that do not have rateable values.”