One of the organisers of the Travel Day of Action next Wednesday has urged agents to comply with Covid restrictions – or risk the event backfiring.
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership, said the trade bodies organising the day are limited to two lots of 400 travel trade people on College Green by the Houses of Parliament.
“It is not a protest; it’s an organised lobby,” she told a Travel Weekly webcast. “I know the anger and I know how people are feeling but we have to take a step back, it is not a march.
“Unfortunately, with Covid restrictions, we are limited. We cannot have thousands and thousands of people descend onto College Green.
“It just cannot happen because, ultimately, the event will have to be cancelled.
“We have to be compliant, we have to be measured. This is still a pandemic.”
She added: “Public sentiment, right now, is not behind us.
“What we can’t do is risk anything causing us to have to cancel that event or for anything that puts us in disrepute.
“It would be catastrophic for us all. That would completely backfire.”
Hundreds of agents will back the Travel Day of Action to lobby for a safe restart of international travel and tailored support for the sector.
Some will shut stores to attend events in London, Edinburgh and Belfast for the Save Future Travel Coalition-led day of action across travel and aviation.
All the tickets for the event have now been allocated so agents who have not registered will not be able to attend on College Green.
Derek Jones, chief executive of Kuoni’s parent Der Touristik UK, said one of the key triggers for action was the government’s decision to take Portugal off the green list – and not put countries such as Malta on.
He told the webcast that he tweeted in the aftermath of the move: “I have never seen the travel industry so angry.”
Jones said it was the “biggest tweet I have had this year” and was seen by almost 200,000 people.
“Suddenly, the government’s own system lost all credibility,” he said.
“It was clearly not being utilised the way it should have been.”
He and Mark Johnson, director of Polka Dot Travel, agreed that the removal of Portugal appeared to be more of a political decision, rather than one based purely on data.
Johnson said the move meant consumer confidence hit “rock bottom” and now agents are facing having to pay back loans and deal with the end of furlough while being unable to sell travel, 15 months into the pandemic.
His 19 shops are closed and staffing levels in the call centre have been halved from 10 to five – and yet Europe and US destinations are opening up for travellers.
“We are going backwards. You just get so worn out with it – when is it going to end?” he said.
He said agents’ livelihoods are at risk and they are coming together to fight the situation.
“By uniting, it is better than being fragmented,” he said.