The Travel Day of Action looks set to “make a difference” according to a leading agent taking part in the lobby.
Miles Morgan, chairman of Miles Morgan Travel, said he’d had “a very positive meeting” with his local MP, David Davis (Monmouthshire) as part of the nationwide lobbying campaign on Wednesday.
“He was very understanding and believes countries on amber will open in August for double-vaccinated holidaymakers and children,” he told Travel Weekly during the gathering at Westminster.
“He said there was a very split view in Parliament but his feeling was that the mood music is changing and he felt today’s Travel Day of Action would make a difference.”
Morgan was one of 1,000+ travel agents from across the UK who have descended on Westminster, Holyrood and Stormont to make their case to politicians for support.
Hundreds of travel professionals have joined forces in London, Edinburgh, Belfast and elsewhere to urge the government to safely reopen travel and provide financial support to help the sector.
Alistair Rowland, chief executive of Blue Bay Travel and chairman of Abta, agreed that there are signs that the day of action will make a difference, especially as there is a debate on Thursday in the House of Commons about travel, and there was national media coverage of the lobbying.
He said it was “frankly disgraceful” that the government ignored the option of the green watchlist when Portugal moved to the amber list recently and said the government needs to act quickly as many agents are running out of cash.
The co-founders of agency group Target – Jill Waite and Graeme Brett – were among the first to join the gathering in London and highlight the plight of their fellow agents.
Waite, director of Pole Travel, said: “In the past 16 months we have barely taken any revenue and yet we’ve had more work than ever. Even if we get a country on the green list this week we are still not going to make any money to pay staff wages in September when furlough ends.”
Brett, director at Westoe Travel, and co-founder of Target, added: “There has been a lot of lobbying in the last 15 months behind the scenes but we have not seen any results to help us get money in our pockets. We have to make ministers realise we really do exist.”
Claire Moore, managing director of Peakes Travel Elite, commented: “So much time has passed. It’s so crucial we get support now; if we don’t get a support package lots of us agents will not be here much longer. It’s a real struggle.”
A team from Travel Weekly was at the event, interviewing trade representatives on College Green and on an open top bus supplied by Big Bus Tours.
Tony Mann, of Idle Travel, speaking on the Travel Weekly bus just now said: “We’re here because we are at the end of our tether. We’re in a worse position than we were in last summer. I am still so angry. I am not sure we’re going to get people away this summer.”
John Attwood, marketing and e-commerce vice-president at Big Bus Tours, said: “We are lobbying to get the industry back on its feet. There is clearly an appetite for international travel but consumers need to feel confident enough to book.”
Operators also joined in the lobby, such as Kuoni, G Adventures and dnata Travel Group.
Derek Jones, chief executive at Kuoni UK, said: “It’s been a really long 18 months and we have not always spoken with one voice. Today is an opportunity to come together with a single voice with a single message for government.
“It’s about understanding the rules to save travel and the government understanding the consequences of their actions. The government needs to respond and be there to support the industry.”
G Adventures’ managing director Brian Young said: “This is the first time in my 30 years that we’ve come together. It was a bit disparate before.
“People are a bit frustrated that we’ve only got 800 people here but we’re in a pandemic and if there were more people it may undo the work that we’ve done.”
Young also said it would be “hypocritical” if the government allows thousands of VIPs to attend the latter stages of the Euro 2020 tournament.
“I do not see how the government can say no to international travel into destinations where the Covid rate is low and then allow 2,000 people in for a football match,” Young added.
John Bevan, divisional senior vice-president, dnata Travel Group, said: “It’s inspiring to see so many of our industry colleagues speaking up for travel today – both in person and online. Although indications are that travel will restart in the near future, we’ve had too many false dawns in the last 15 months and we join calls being made today for the government to commit to and stick by a clear and robust plan for the permanent and safe reopening of travel.
“As is being said by many others today, this industry provides a livelihood for millions and generates billions in revenue – it simply cannot continue to be overlooked.
“Unfortunately, for what were many well-run travel businesses, the loosening in restrictions in the coming weeks could be too little too late. Getting our industry back on its feet is not an overnight job. It will take time.
“That’s why we’re adding our voice to those calling for sector-specific support as we navigate what will no doubt be a bumpy road to recovery.”
Keith Herman, chief executive of Trending Travel, said: “We are working really hard to put pressure on government to make them see sense. The Foreign Office says it’s fine to go to certain destinations but the government says it’s not. It’s a crazy situation.”