The government is not going to offer sector-specific support to the travel industry as it doesn’t view company failures as detrimental to consumers.

That’s the view of Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive at Advantage Travel Partnership, speaking at the Travel Weekly Future of Travel Spring Forum about the struggles faced by the sector amid the pandemic.

Speaking ahead of the defence secretary’s comments over the weekend, she said: “I don’t think we’re going see any sector-specific support. My personal view is that government look at the sector and they take a view as to what the detriment will be to consumers.

“They think, well, if we lost X-amount of businesses in this sector, would it be detrimental to the consumer?”

Commenting on the revival of the Thomas Cook brand as an OTA, she added: “[The government] look at us as very entrepreneurial, very positive. We’re an island, people are going to travel, so if we lose some businesses along the way, actually it’s not going to be detrimental to the consumer.

“It’s a really brutal comment. It’s not being said to me, but that’s the impression I get: ‘if we lose some businesses along the way, consumers will still travel, it won’t be detrimental’.

“I think it has resonated through, because otherwise there’s very little logic as to why the government would be so hell-bent on not supporting a sector that is so key to economic recovery and so key for the jobs market.”

Lo Bue-Said fears more companies will fail as the pandemic and continuing pressures take their toll.

“It’s more brutal now than it’s ever been. We’re not out of the woods yet,” she said. “We are going to see businesses fail. There are lots of pressures that are about to hit businesses over the next few months.”

Miles Morgan, chairman of Miles Morgan Travel, agreed that sector-specific support is not forthcoming.

“We need a minister that knows something about our industry and can support us appropriately, because it’s been abundantly obvious [the government] haven’t got a clue on how we work, how we make money, how the business model is,” he said.

“For people to get sector support, [the politicians] need to understand it. Pubs and suchlike employ a lot more people than our sector and there’s clearly a lot of appetite for giving them additional support.

“But for us, no – we don’t have a minister backing us. We’ve been swept to one side.”

Guy Novik, chief executive at USAirtours, echoed their comments, saying more challenges loom with Atol renewals in March and September, while Debbie Goffin, sales and marketing director at Premier Holidays, agreed there are “tough times ahead”.

“It’s a marathon now, not a sprint, and we’re probably not even at the halfway point,” she said.

“It’s a shame that our industry isn’t understood and recognised more.

“It’s illegal to go on holiday, but it’s never been illegal to book a holiday. I really wish [the politicians] would understand that, because that would help us all so much.”
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