The “wolves are at the door” of travel agents and tour operators, Abta chief Mark Tanzer warned today as he demanded the government operate the traffic light system for international travel “as it was designed” and stump up sector-specific support.
Addressing Abta’s Travel Matters summit in what he called the industry’s “darkest hour”, Tanzer hit out at the government’s failures when its “own data show travel has been the sector hardest hit”.
He condemned the repeated warnings against travel to amber countries “despite the government’s own system of testing and quarantining” and described a reference in the recently published Tourism Recovery Plan to “embracing the opportunity” of restrictions on overseas travel as “a dagger in the heart of travel agents and tour operators fighting for survival”.
Tanzer argued: “There has been no lack of engagement from our side with government.
“At every turn we’ve been there giving evidence of what is happening and working on practical steps to get travel moving. Yet at our hour of greatest need the government seems intent on looking away.
“The wolves are at the door. Every day counts in regaining this summer season and getting money into cash-starved businesses.”
He insisted: “Our asks of government are straightforward. Use the traffic light system as designed and don’t overlay it [with] a general warning against travel.
“Make operation of the system transparent and consistent. The industry and customers have no idea how countries move from one category to the other.
“Recognise double vaccinated passengers. Other countries are ahead of us on this. We plead for this change as soon as possible.”
Tanzer added: “Extend financial life-support mechanisms for the sector. The Chancellor seems bent on phasing out of furlough payments and business rates relief, but he must recognise the travel sector has not yet even started its recovery.
“Other countries have singled out travel as a special case in terms of revenue replacement grants and that is what we’re calling for.”
He urged that lessons learned over the past 15 months be “baked into a future travel health strategy”, called for a dedicated minister to be “accountable for the welfare of the outbound travel sector” and told the government: “Put aside any misguided prejudices against outbound travel.
“We’re ready to work together. Show us you are.”