If the prime minister doesn’t act there won’t be a travel industry left, say Save Our Summer co-founders Paul Charles and Henry Morley

Travel firms large and small are united in outrage. In recent days, government ministers have done their best to torpedo the entire travel sector by telling UK citizens not to book a holiday in the UK or abroad, now or never.

It is hard to think of a more damaging approach by ministers who are elected to protect jobs and ensure economic growth.

With such callous words, they have damaged their own careers as well as threaten up to 2.4 million jobs at risk in the UK travel and tourism sector, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

A new alliance of more than 120 UK travel companies – called Save Our Summer – is urging the government to allow overseas travel to restart on May 1.
A new alliance of more than 120 UK travel companies – called Save Our Summer – is urging the government to allow overseas travel to restart on May 1.

Such is the outrage, we have created a far-reaching group, in just three days, called Save Our Summer.

This is an SOS from the entire travel sector – from aviation to tour operators, hotel groups to cruise lines – as the government appears to have no strategy for rebuilding and boosting the travel sector as we emerge out of lockdown.

The travel industry has often been split, with various lobby groups for aviation or travel agents alone.

But the pandemic, and the damaging approach in recent days from ministers offering conflicting advice, has brought those of us responsible for growing travel together.

An industry which employs more than one in 10 jobs in the UK and represents 10% of our GDP has been pummelled from pillar to post in the last 12 months, and enough is enough.

Travel is not just about holidays on a beach or influencers in Dubai, as the home secretary took pleasure in picking out last week to illustrate the shambles of her hotel quarantine policy.

Travel enables businesses to become more productive, families to see each other, cargo to function efficiently and supply vital goods into and out of the UK.

Some ministers want you to believe it is now a crime to book a future trip to visit your parents or see your fiancée in another country.

But ministers have failed us on their promise. We were told that once the vulnerable had been vaccinated that restrictions would be eased and we could recommence operations.

Yet the current tone is one of keeping travel bans in place, and relying on a failing quarantine strategy.

This rhetoric brings into question what the point of vaccinating the top nine vulnerable groups is if we can’t then resume our lives and livelihoods?

By May 1, due to the government’s success at rolling out vaccines, the most vulnerable will have received both jabs.

So we urge the prime minister to signal, when he reveals his roadmap on February 22, that consumers are now able to book holidays, business trips and family visits overseas for travel from 1st May.

By that time, the vaccine programme will have worked much of its magic, infection and mortality rates will be much, much lower and the NHS will be under less Covid pressure.

In addition, we ask the prime minister to replace blanket quarantine with extensive testing, if needed for arrivals and departures, as demonstrated successfully in countries like South Korea. Testing technology will be even quicker and more advanced by May.

Without a target date being set, millions of jobs and businesses in the travel sector are under immediate threat of collapse and the prime minister is the only person who can save them.

Crucially, those supporting Save Our Summer guarantee that consumers can book with confidence and be entitled to a refund or a change of travel date should government Covid restrictions prevent the trip taking place.

More than 120 companies have supported the SOS campaign pre-launch, including easyJet Holidays, Trailfinders, Travelopia, Audley Travel, Celebrity Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Campbell Gray Hotels, Teletext Holidays, Wild Frontiers and Elegant Resorts. Individuals such as Chef Jason Atherton and former cricketer and safari lodge owner Kevin Pietersen, back the campaign and you can join us too.

It’s not just about providing clarity and instilling consumer confidence.

The government has a duty to ensure it rebuilds a previously successful British travel and tourism sector.

The prime minister should demonstrate his personal leadership and save the sector and the jobs that it supports, not kill them off.

We urge him to Save Our Summer and in doing so, rescue the UK travel industry.

You can lend your support via sostravel.uk

Travel consultant Paul Charles is founder and chief executive of PR firm, The PC Agency, and Henry Morley is chief executive of tour oeprator True Travel