Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer has demanded the government appoint a dedicated minister for outbound travel, saying the industry has been “treated as an orphan” for too long.
Opening Abta’s Travel Convention at the Canary Wharf East Wintergarden in London this morning, Tanzer said: “The last 18 months have tested the resilience of the travel industry. The industry was forced into a mini Ice Age.
“It’s too early to speak of recovery. I’m all too aware many of our members are perilously close to a cliff edge. But travel is no longer blunted by anxiety about quarantine.”
He insisted: “Abta has been strongly critical of the government through the pandemic for its failure to understand and support an industry that its own data show to have been the longest and hardest hit, and when it’s clear that international travel is on a much shallower recovery trajectory than other sectors.
“We desperately needed to see the restrictions and testing requirements eased and we’re glad the government has finally responded to our calls.
“But the job is not yet done. We still need to think how unvaccinated passengers can be freed to travel, how we can ease the red tape around entering the UK and how we can harmonise vaccine certification across the world.
“Our members are still starved of cash. We urgently need the Chancellor to extend business support measures which for some members will mean the difference between survival and failure.”
Tanzer argued the outbound sector” feels like an orphan dealing with multiple ministers and departments” and said: “This challenge has always dogged our industry and the pandemic has thrown the problem into sharp relief.
“I repeat the call on government to give one of its ministers dedicated responsibility for outbound travel.”
He added: “International travel can’t be managed by countries in isolation. We need to build on the painful lessons of the last 18 months.
“The travel industry, public health bodies and governments must put in place cross-border protocols.”
Tanzer told the Convention: “It’s hard to overstate how difficult this has been. We’re hearing of business coming in. The appetite for travel is there. But we still have to rebuild customer confidence. We’re not out of the woods.
“Having all those countries come off the red list has opened a huge number of options for people.” But he noted: “It’s hard to say when we’ll get back to pre-Covid levels.”
He noted “our existence as travel businesses and suppliers is inextricably linked to government policy” and warned: “The travel industry needs to make and communicate its progress on carbon reduction otherwise we face swingeing carbon taxes that will make travel once again a luxury.”
Tanzer suggested people “need to be able to travel in good conscience” and acknowledged the presence of animal welfare campaigners outside the Convention, saying: “Abta has been active in the area of animal welfare since 2013.”
He added: “It’s not just customers demanding good standards, but employees and investors too. We are the generation that has to handle the challenges of growth.”