Operators put activity on hold after government setback

The travel industry’s desire to trade its way out of the pandemic has been seriously undermined by the government’s traffic light communications, industry leaders believe.

Mark Duguid, managing director of luxury operator Carrier, said last week’s removal of Portugal from the green list, just weeks after being added, would severely damage consumer confidence.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, he added that he had put marketing activity on hold until there was a significant change in consumer sentiment and added that the announcement had effectively written off the rest of the summer.

“It will take a sustained period of stability and countries going in the right direction before I will do anything,” he said.

Duguid said there would be some clients wishing to get away, but not in sufficient volumes, a view supported by Andrew Botterill, executive chairman and co-owner of Travcorp Holdings, which owns the brands holidaygems and Destination2.

“There’s always going to be people that are going to travel, they will be people travelling on the amber list because they’re fed up,” he said. “But to get the kind of demand that we need to trade profitably and to be able to reinvest back into our businesses, we need the government to take our industry seriously, to put some plans in place and to communicate effectively at every level and every turn.

“They’ve refused to do that for the last 12 months. It’s almost as if we don’t exist and for an industry that puts in the tax money that we do and the contribution that we make across the supply chain, for it not to be taken seriously and to be treated like we have been is appalling.”

He added: “Grant Shapps should resign. If you run a business and you behaved and you communicated like that, you’d be asked to resign.”

Botterill said: “The way that our industry wants to get out of this is to be able to trade out of it because we know probably more than most industries, that when we can travel, the pent-up demand will be absolutely huge.

“But to trade out is a confidence game and yesterday’s decision hit the confidence of travel businesses up and down the country of all shapes and sizes. We’re now further back than we were this time last year.”

He added: “At least last year we had travel corridors, and as much as I didn’t agree with them, you could probably work with them – until the government started the ‘can we, can’t we’ go somewhere and prompted the big stampedes to get back.”

Botterill said the return to the confusion of last year showed that the government had “not taken the industry seriously” and still failed to understand how it operated.

“They’ve not put plans in place. They don’t understand the complexities and the logistics involved, not just for the companies, but for the consumers,” he said.

“I think trying to get that confidence back this summer is going to be the biggest challenge that most businesses are going to have.”

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