The outlook for travel is “bleak” and the government needs to show “a step change in attitude” to the pain the sector is suffering, Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer told the Treasury select committee of MPs this afternoon

Appearing before the committee to testify on the economic impact of Covid-19, Tanzer warned: “I fear us losing a generation of travel companies.”

The Abta chief pointed out Office for National Statistics data “shows travel was the earliest and the hardest hit” sector and said: “We are not at a point of recovery at all. The situation for travel is bleak.

“Last week’s news that Portugal was being put on the amber list was a signal to the industry and to consumers that the government is prepared to say international travel is not going to restart as envisaged.


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“We were hoping to get away from the stop-start we had last year. The government said ‘We are not going to have that. We are going to have a watch list.’ [But] there was no watch list last week, so you saw people struggling to get back from Portugal.”

Tanzer told the MPs: “The summer season accounts for two thirds of our members’ revenue and we’re in the summer and it is not happening.

“There are just two countries you can go to, Iceland and Gibraltar, and they account for less than 0.5% of international travel.

“Our members are taking no revenue. Travel firms are typically not well capitalised. People are not just losing their businesses but losing their homes.

“People have been living on thin air for 18 months. Some are down to the last redundancy.

“We surveyed our members and 44% anticipate more redundancies as furlough tails off. That was with a July restart, so that number is going to rise.

“We’ve already lost 37% of staff, about 88,000 jobs, in outbound travel and that is going to rise. We will keep shedding workers till the brakes come off [travel].”

He insisted: “Our members are looking for a real step change in the attitude of the government. The government needs to recognise travel is in a class of its own in terms of the pain it’s experiencing.”

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