Advantage chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said has called for a meeting with Grant Shapps after outlining a list of demands and pressures on the travel industry in a letter to the transport secretary.
Lo Bue-Said said she had written to Shapps a number of times over the course of the pandemic both in his role as transport secretary and as her local constituency MP.
She said the plight of the consortium’s independent travel agencies “may not have resonated” due to the lack of members in the Welwyn Hatfield district, but insisted they remain “the backbone of their local communities” and pointed to Kitts Travel in Potters Bar as the nearest to his constituency.
In her letter, she also noted that the industry had been given no opportunity to review the report of the Global Travel Taskforce before it was published, and emphasised that the sector represented “much more than aviation”.
She added: “My members fully understand the challenges the pandemic has created for government and are supportive in the main of the difficult decisions placed upon government in fighting the pandemic and they are also appreciative of the support of the fiscal measures delivered by the chancellor to date.
“However, the shutdown of international travel has not been aligned with financial support measures to support once thriving businesses enabling them to trade out of the crisis despite significant industry representation.”
Lo Bue-Said went on to outline a number of issues faced by agencies, including the inability to access the same grant support as businesses in other sectors despite being unable to trade, and urged the government not to apply restrictions on leisure travellers to essential and “critical” business travel.
She also called for greater transparency on how data will be weighted for the government’s proposed ‘traffic light’ scheme, and reiterated calls from across the industry for lateral flow antigen tests to replace PCR tests for those returning from ‘green list’ countries.
She added: “We understand the government’s cautious approach to restarting international travel but the traffic light system does not take into account the risk mitigation strategies and increased hygiene protocols implemented by the entire international travel eco-system.
“In fact, every traffic light category currently has a shade of red and this is not sustainable for consumers or industry.
“We also note that the framework for resuming international travel has not considered any exemptions for vaccinated travellers despite this approach taken by international destinations.”
The Advantage chief also called for “a single source of communication driven by government engaging proactively with the relevant industry bodies” which she said would “ensure a cohesive and joined up approach, instilling greater confidence in the overall framework”.
She concluded: “My members have largely been unable to trade for 12 months now, they are classed as non-essential retail, 40% have not had access to local authority grants, liquidity remains at a critically low point, trading is down – 90% with no immediate prospect of turning this around further redundancies are looming, driving further business failures and more pressure on other government social security measures.
“To paraphrase your own words ‘international travel is vital – it boosts businesses and underpins the UK economy – but more than that, it brings people together, connects families who have been kept apart, and allows us to explore new horizons’.
“I would welcome the opportunity to meet and discuss this urgent matter with you at your next constituency surgery.”
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