Abta is urging travel companies to consider “re-engaging” with their local councils in relation to Additional Restrictions Grants (ARGs) funding after temporary extra travel restrictions were imposed in response to the Omicron variant.
The association says the imposition of further restrictions is a “clear reminder of the unique constraints facing travel businesses” and has produced a template letter which can be personalised and used to support applications.
It believes councils may be encouraged to think again where they have funding available but have been reluctant to direct it at travel businesses previously. It had previously made the case for businesses to apply in October, when it noted £300 million in unspent funding.
Abta pointed out that UK government guidance for local authorities makes clear that both tour operators and travel agents in England, including those who received the Restart Grant, should be considered eligible for the ARG, subject to available funds.
However, it noted this advice was only updated in the middle of June, and “as a result many councils have not yet considered the sector in their own support schemes”.
The template letter says the new restrictions will undoubtedly impact consumer demand and hold back the travel industry’s recovery, and outlines the challenges faced by the industry throughout the course of the pandemic.
The ARGs are only available in England, but Abta is continuing to make the case to the devolved administrations about the ongoing need for support. Scotland’s devolved government did grant £5 million of sector-specific support in December 2020.
Chief executive Mark Tanzer wrote to the chancellor this week repeating Abta’s calls for funding support for the sector considering the recent Covid-19 developments.
Abta said it is also reaching out to relevant ministers to discuss the case for funding, especially for small and medium sized businesses including travel agents, homeworkers, and tour operators.
Luke Petherbridge, director of public affairs, said: “The industry’s recovery was always going to be bumpy.
“The temporary measures introduced by the government this week and the increasing number of countries bringing in additional restrictions are cases in point, which is why we have consistently argued the sector needs to be offered support to get through the pandemic.
“Over recent months we have been supporting Members to access the grant schemes available, including providing support for individual applications, as well as maintaining our lobbying for additional support. The Additional Restrictions Grant funding is available to all travel companies, and a lot of it remains unspent, so I’d really encourage Abta members to get in touch with their local authority.
“The industry did not experience the summer recovery we had hoped for, which means we’re less able to weather these further storms. We know that small to medium sized companies, in particular, will struggle without additional help as they don’t have the same financing options as larger companies, and that is the case we have put to the Chancellor and the ministers responsible for our sector.”
A copy of the template letter is available on Abta’s website.