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Comment: The industry must align on demands

Arron Mitchell, director of youth travel specialist Syte, outlines his asks of government and calls for a united front

Since February 2020 we started to feel the impacts of Covid-19 and all of us have been battling the effects since. It is a testament to the resilience of the industry that we are still standing, although we have lost some great businesses along the way and no doubt we will lose some more over the winter.

I, like my industry colleagues, have seen the media coverage over the outcry over hospitality and the supposed support they are to receive from the government. But the hospitality industry in the UK is in its peak period, just like we will be in our peak period in January (I hope).

In December the hospitality industry generates 30-35% of its annual income in one month alone which is why they, quite rightly, deserve support or we will see many hospitality businesses fail.

Whilst I agree there have been significant differences in support between hospitality and travel from the UK government which need investigating, it is also true that the travel industry has been “noisy but ineffective”, as the chairman of UKHospitality and Jonathan Wall of Elman Wall recently noted.

What support do we want? Is it financial support? Or is it the UK government to support the industry with clear and concise messages: Use a local travel agent, make sure you book with an Atol-protected company, bringing private testing companies in line with fixed cost-effective prices, clear messages on testing.

It is these messages that will enable travel companies to trade their way through the pandemic. The constant switching, changing and mixed messages are doing nothing to support the industry.

Screaming for financial support brings no confidence to the industry and will not enable us to trade effectively, all it is doing is putting a plaster on an open wound that needs stitching unless the government brings some stability to the industry.

What we need is to find the balance between keeping the UK safe and allowing effective, safe travel. It is clear testing is going to be a requirement for travel throughout 2022, so then let’s say it. I would like to see from the UK government:

  • Removal of pre-flight Covid tests for UK residents/passport holders. Testing for visitors into the UK should be a requirement.
  • Day 2 lateral flow tests on Day 0 after arrival. A positive result should require an NHS PCR test and self-isolation.
  • Unvaccinated travellers should not be permitted to travel in or out of the UK (including any relevant booster jabs).
  • An announcement that the red list is permanently abolished.
  • A limit on the prices charged by private testing companies and proper monitoring of performance.

This is what we as an industry should be calling for. Once we have a clear concise message in place for 2022, we can inform customers of protocols.

Calling for financial support won’t do anything if the UK government continues its mixed messages, constantly changing advice and protocols. We will just continue to battle through like we have done for the last two years and see even more failures.

The industry needs to stand up with one voice and one message. We need to look at appointing a body of like-minded colleagues to represent the industry. I know who I’d like to see represent us and it’s a mixture of airline bosses, tour operator bosses & travel agency owners. We need to have one voice, one body, one message.

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