New SPAA president Jacqueline Dobson urges politicians to revive the high street

Barrhead Travel boss Jacqueline Dobson used her first official address as president of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association to urge politicians to help revive the high street.

Addressing the SPAA annual dinner, she warned that government-level support in Scotland does not match the scope of the travel industry.

The Barrhead Travel president said: “We are increasingly frustrated that rates relief, for example, has not been matched in the Scottish budget this year and that Scottish ministers are considering the introduction of a new business rate surtax on retailers. 

“This means that we are another year down the line where we are at a disadvantage compared with our English counterparts. 

“Business might be doing well for many – but rates and bills are skyrocketing for those who choose to trade on the high street. 

“When the ONS continues to report downward spending patterns for retail, travel bucks the trend with even more spending than last year. 

“Barclays, for instance, reported spend for travel agents in December grew yet again – at a rate of 12.8% – with growth continuing in January at a rate of 8% year on year. 

“Surely the answer to reviving our dwindling high streets is obvious? Provide robust packages that encourage retail travel to thrive and expand.”

Dobson told 350 guests at the function in Glasgow: “The same logic applies to investment in people – particularly apprentices. I remain very disappointed that we now no longer have any funding available for Scottish travel apprentices with the courses about to become extinct across colleges. 

“To add insult to injury, the vital Flexible Workforce Development Fund has been withdrawn due to budget cuts – meaning that there is even less funding available to travel businesses. 

“We are paying into the same levy pot as every other industry across the UK – yet we cannot utilise our own funding for the courses that would make a difference to our businesses.

“I have to be frank and say it really is unacceptable – quite clearly, the way the levy is drawn down in Scotland is completely unfit for purpose and serves neither the young people nor the businesses that it was designed for. 

“It will be down to industry to drive debate and discussion on these topics and we at the SPAA will be at the helm of helping to deliver change.”

She also called for better airline connectivity from Scotland as services to the US and Middle East are still down on pre-Covid levels.

“The direct impact for our industry means that customers have less choice and the world is less accessible,” Dobson said.  

“We realistically know that Scotland cannot have direct services to every corner of the globe – we are certainly not advocating for that. It is neither sustainable nor practical. 

“But it is reasonable to expect that connectivity to key destinations should be serviced by sufficient regional connecting flights and this is not currently the case. 

“Scotland’s tourism and travel industries need and deserve more and it is a topic that will remain top of our agenda.” 


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