A Labour MP has pledged to write to ministers and government departments about the lack of financial support for many travel agents throughout the pandemic.
Kate Green, the MP for Stretford and Urmston, spoke to agents and others from the travel sector during an online surgery on Friday (January 22).
It was prompted by her constituent, homeworker Sue Welsh (Ace Travel 2), who told the Zoom call how she has been unable to access any grants or support from her council.
“I am really sad; we just want some help. I am getting really frustrated,” she said.
She is a member of The Travel Network Group, which has written to Trafford Council on her behalf to outline her situation.
TTNG chief executive Gary Lewis was also on the call and told the MP that many homeworkers did not qualify for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) nor Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG), which is at the discretion of local authorities.
“Our industry has been turned off, [we are] not able to travel,” he said.
“We are the number-one, most affected industry, with zero revenue, but we have had to refund all those bookings.”
Jill Waite, director of Pole Travel in Failsworth, Manchester, told the MP about high street agents, who have been able to access grants but now face having to pay back their Bounce Back Loans after nearly a year without income.
Furthermore, she said she could furlough her staff but as a limited company director she does not qualify for anything personally.
“Nobody in Parliament is interested in travel,” she said.
“It does not look like travel will start again this summer; there is no confidence and no revenue.
“We are still changing holidays and making refunds but there is no targeted industry support.”
Others on the call highlighted the problems of businesses in shared spaces not qualifying for grants; the lack of notice for changes to travel corridors; uncertainty about the timetable for the lifting of restrictions; and the lack of checks on people who seem to be travelling overseas on non-essential trips.
Green told the agents: “It is useful to see these common themes, it highlights there are real problems with the way some schemes were designed.
“There is a real gap in the way the government supports your industry.
“Part of the problem is there are lots of people in government, at local and national level, having a bearing on what you are doing but not joining up.
“There is no one in government pulling it all together.”
She pledged to write to ministers and departments overseeing the various issues raised by the agents, such as the Treasury; Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office; Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; and Department for Transport, as well as local councils in Manchester.
“I hope the chancellor will listen ahead of the budget in March,” she said.
“I will make him aware of the problems you face. We can keep pushing.”