“All corners of the industry” need to converge on Parliament on June 23 to press for a workable traffic light system and to “bring forward financial support”.
That is according to leaders across travel and aviation, outbound and inbound, corporate and leisure, who joined in calling for a day of action following the shock removal of Portugal from the green list of destinations.
The government made clear the decision was designed to protect “a domestic unlock” on June 21 – a date now in doubt.
One senior industry source told Travel Weekly: “The industry is being sacrificed for the sake of June 21.” A second source noted the decision “made a mockery of the green watch list”, arguing: “June 21 is driving everything.” A third insisted the government “has invested such political capital in June 21, it’s prepared to throw travel under the bus”.
Sources close to government talks confirmed no warning was given of Portugal’s removal, insisting: “The Department for Transport rang only after news leaked.”
Alan Bowen, legal advisor to the Association of Atol Companies, summarised the impact saying: “No one would believe it if the government said ‘You can travel’ now. Who in their right mind with kids is going to book for July or August?
“If the June 21 date sticks, we could see something. But the government can’t be seen to say ‘You can’t go to a nightclub here, but you can go to a nightclub in Spain’.”
An aviation source described the industry as in “the last-chance saloon [for] summer” and said: “We hope to get thousands of people to London on June 23. We want MPs to feel compelled to come out to meet us.”
Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer told the Treasury select committee on Monday: “When the traffic light system was announced, it had the benefit of clarity. We were hoping to get away from the stop-start of last year. Then the government said ‘You shouldn’t travel to amber destinations’. We’d like the traffic light system put into practice.”
Tanzer told Travel Weekly: “The day of action reflects real disappointment. To go backwards without any warning suggests the position is different to what the government said. If travel is being held back to protect the domestic reopening, the government should come up with support.”
He added: “Public health is a priority in other countries. What is it the government sees that they don’t? We’d like some transparency.”
An airline source insisted: “The industry will back this day of action, but it can’t look self-serving. It can’t look like it wants to travel and sod everyone. We need careful messaging.”
Travel agent action group Target postponed a protest planned at Parliament this Thursday (June 10) to swing behind June 23. Co-founder Jill Waite said: “We’ve been able to stir the trade bodies into action.”
Organisers promise “intense lobbying and political engagement” leading up to the protest and plan to target the devolved administrations as well as Westminster.
Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said said: “We need to pull together towards this single date.”