Abta ‘still hopeful’ of additional support for travel

Abta remains hopeful of convincing the government to provide additional aid to travel businesses despite the lack of sector-specific support in the Budget.

Mark Tanzer, Abta chief executive, conceded he was disappointment with the Chancellor’s failure to provide more despite being “pleased to see some of the things we’ve been calling for”.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Tanzer said: “I was disappointed the broader travel industry hasn’t been recognised as needing support. The industry has effectively been closed by government health policies.”

He pointed out the government’s own data shows a 90% reduction in the business volumes of travel companies and said: “The Treasury and the Chancellor haven’t taken on board that this is one big supply chain.”

Business rates relief has again been restricted to firms with retail outlets and Tanzer said: “There is no point if tour operators aren’t there to provide product and it feeds into the aviation sector.”

He insisted: “We’ll continue to call for tailored support because it is necessary.”

Tanzer conceded: “I’m hopeful rather than confident they will come around.”

But he argued: “The initiatives around the reconvened Global Travel Taskforce show the government does understand international travel is an important part of people’s lives and important part of the economy.

“The attention they are giving to the taskforce is a sign they do understand the importance of the sector. Our job is to make them aware companies are in very difficult financial position, and we want companies to come through these next few months to be part of the recovery.”

“They don’t want to give out money unnecessarily, but they know from their own data that the industry is being hit very hard.”

He acknowledged the risk of insolvencies without both a restart and support.

Tanzer said: “I wouldn’t want to predict numbers of failures. But our members have been going nearly a year without any meaningful revenue and can only go on so long. They’re under extreme pressure

“You’ve still got refund obligations out there. Eventually you need some cash in. We’ve had failures already and we don’t want any more.”

He added: “There are a lot of uncertainties about when international travel will get underway even with the roadmap. There is a big difference between the beginning of the summer and the end, and the pandemic can intervene and make a big difference to how sustainable companies are.”

In a further disappointment, the government again ignored industry pleas to suspend or reduce Air Passenger Duty (APD) and instead confirmed an inflation-linked rise in the rates on medium and long-haul flights.

However, Tanzer said the sector would not drop its demands on APD.

He said: “It was a difficult battle to win before the current situation. It’s an easy tax for the government to raise because we do the collection and it’s £3 billion straight into the Chancellor’s pocket.

“We’ve said ‘Now more than ever the industry needs that to be reduced’. We haven’t won the debate, but we haven’t given up either.”

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