Aito chairman Chris Rowles has attacked the government for continuing to advise against booking summer holidays abroad “until the picture is clearer.”
Rowles hit out after the roadmap reviews were published in the wake of prime minister Boris Johnson’s Easter Monday briefing.
The boss of the independent travel organisation said: “This is death by back-stabbing, with no sector-specific support whatsoever proffered to help the outbound industry to survive the coming weeks and months until travel abroad is again feasible to whichever countries are on the green and amber traffic light lists.
“Aito’s 200-plus specialist holiday companies and specialist travel agents, along with plenty of other travel businesses that sell overseas travel, have been left to rot by this deceitful and simply uncaring government.
“Rather than discussing anything with the outbound industry, or offering us help – as they have with the creative arts and hospitality sectors, listed by the government’s own Office for National Statistics as second and third worst hit industries, they’ve simply ignored us and treated us as if we don’t exist.
“They must be hoping that staycations will mean that all those millions of pounds of furlough money are spent in the UK.
“They forget – or are so ignorant of how the outbound industry operates that they don’t realise – that we have not been able to furlough staff as others have because of the hundreds of thousands of holidays that we’ve had to cancel throughout 2020, to defer to 2021 – and now, in many cases, to 2022 – or to refund in full despite the lack of refunds from airlines/accommodation providers; we’ve had to dip into our own modest reserves.”
He added: “The government’s Sage advisers stopped bookings dead about three weeks ago by advising the public not to book summer holidays abroad, which we complained bitterly about as confidence had been returning.
“Now we understand why – they knew the government was going to state ‘don’t book summer holidays abroad until the picture is clearer’ yesterday.
“We know, too, that another round of deferrals and refunds will now commence, with no new bookings to give us any income or hope of survival.”
Rowles urged the government to agree sector-specific support for operators and agents.
He added: “The astounding success of the UK’s vaccination programme, with 60% of adults now vaccinated, seems pointless if it doesn’t restore the freedom to travel overseas for those who seek to do so, whether to visit family and friends or to escape from the past 12 months’ virtual imprisonment that we’ve all endured.
“We know and accept that the mantra of face, space, hands and fresh air will need to be maintained, wherever we are; it is a small and sensible price to pay for freedom.”
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