End ‘fear factor’ around foreign travel, SPAA chief urges

The “fear factor” around international travel must stop, the head of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association has urged.

SPAA president Joanne Dooey appealed to the Scottish and UK governments to support a return to international travel at the association’s centenary dinner in Glasgow last night (Thursday).

The 100th anniversary dinner was originally scheduled for February but was delayed due to the pandemic.

Dooey told an audience of 200: “We need to see a return to international flying. The fear factor driven by people in power now needs to stop.

“We need to get Scotland back to business with safety protocols in place which are simple, and more importantly do not cost a fortune, to allow our industry to get back to some normality.

“We need to remove complexity and bring in simplicity with clear consistent communication and processes to support travel and not to hinder it or prevent it.”

The SPAA president told Travel Weekly ahead of that she expects international travel rules to be eased when ministers review the much-criticised traffic light system this month.

The association has been lobbying for Scots being demonising for going on holiday to cease, and for the Scottish government to get behind an industry which supports 26,000 jobs in Scotland and brings £1.466 billion to the economy annually.

The association wants just green and red traffic light lists after the next review of the system for itnernational travel, due by October 1.

Dooey added: “We need to trust in the vaccine and allow freedom of movement.”

A recent SPAA survey revealed that a third of members have taken a second job since March 2020 to help their businesses survive and 7% of these members had taken more than three jobs.

Almost 70% of travel agency owners surveyed have personally had virtually no income since the start of the pandemic.

In her speech, Dooey also noted the loss of “many, many good people from the industry through redundancies and lay-offs. She said: “As we build back, we hope to see lots of these talented individuals return to the industry. We want them back. We need them back.

“Their expertise and experience is vital to build back stronger and to capitalise on all future opportunities.”

She said that the values established when the SPAA was formed in 1921 were still relevant today as she praised the importance of partnerships in the industry.

“The severity of this impact has not been felt just by the travel agent community but also by the whole supply chain,” Dooey said, as she recalled the “immense undertaking” of refunds and amendments as the pandemic took hold.

“Partnership and support are key as we all try to rebuild our businesses. It is acknowledged that the importance of transparent communication and discussion to find solutions through working together to understand each other is the common issue for all.

“We will aim to work together, respecting each others’ views, to find solutions. This was one of the objectives set out 100 ago by William Bell as the SPAA’s first President.”

She said suppliers that supported travel agents best during the crisis “will not be forgotten”.

Dooey also addressed Air Passenger Duty, which the SPAA wants paused on all flights for a year to help the recovery.

On Atol reform, she said the recent consultation was “ill-timed” and that proposed changes should be “shelved until trading conditions have improved” and then “considered in conjunction with the reform of Package Travel Regulations.”

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