Trade calls for ‘clear messaging’ from government about travel rules

The travel industry is calling for clear messaging from ministers when the Global Travel Taskforce reports its findings, because of widespread confusion among consumers and the trade.

The taskforce is set report on April 12, with non-essential overseas travel slated to start from May 17 at the earliest – but there had been hopes for more details to be revealed by the prime minister on Monday.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast on Tuesday, trade bosses said there was disappointment about Boris Johnson’s announcement on Monday and they asked for clarity from the taskforce.

Joanne Dooey, president of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA) said the situation in Scotland will be different but added: “We had been hoping that there would be some sort of clarity on the traffic lights [system].

“It was very much disappointing because everyone was hyped up.

“You’ve got consumers out there, not knowing if they can travel on May 17…or if they can book a holiday.

“The whole thing is totally frustrating the industry.”

She hopes the taskforce findings will offer “some glimmers of hope” to boost consumer confidence.

“Customers are confused and we, as an industry, are totally confused about what we can do and what we can’t do,” she said.

Gary Lewis, The Travel Network Group’s chief executive, said there is a “real sense of anger and frustration” about the confusing comments from government – both from the dashed hopes for more details on Monday and “don’t book summer holidays” messages.

Alan Cross, head of trade at Jet2holidays, said May 17 is the date that the airline Jet2 and operator is working towards for holidays to resume.

“It was always April 12 that [the taskforce] were going to report back,” he said.

“Why we had any sort of announcement yesterday makes no sense whatsoever, and just confuses and muddies the water.

“What we need is confidence and clarity at this moment in time; we are a year down the road. Is it too much to ask for?”

Dooey agreed that government advice “not to book summer holidays abroad until the picture is clearer” hits confidence.

The SPAA had been getting its message over to Scottish ministers to clarify the fact that booking a holiday for the future is not illegal, even though non-essential travel at the moment is not allowed.

“We thought we had got a bit of a breakthrough, because they had started to change how they were speaking,” she said.

“Confidence is really, really low. As an industry, we need the government to help us here, to get some sort of confidence for people to realise they can book, but as long as they’re booking with reputable people, and that they’ve got the flexibility to move.”

Lewis added: “We’re asking the government be clear on messaging and that’s why yesterday was so disappointing.

“You layer that on top of the media frenzy, and you layer that on top of ministers talking about ‘it’s illegal to book’, it just gets lost in the message.”

However, he did say that “clear dates” for travelling would prompt demand and bookings.

“Customers will make their own choices about how confident they are. All of us can see what’s happening in France, what’s happening in Italy,” he said.

“We are asking the government to give clear messaging. And that clear messaging is based on the evidence. That evidence is coming from the Global Travel Taskforce on April 12, so let’s just wait until that comes.”

He said he can understand the difficulty of the issues and how the government was “caught out” last summer when travel to Spain was opened up and then closed down.

He said there is a “huge amount of work” being done for the taskforce by government departments and industry representatives, including Jet2holidays, TTNG and the SPAA, which will offer clarity about the traffic light system that will be introduced.

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