Inbound trade association UKinbound will not give up on the fight for government support through the winter.
The association is meeting in Manchester this week for its first convention since the pandemic began and chief executive Joss croft insisted: “We need to hold the government to account. It’s about survivability through to next spring.”
UKinbound issued a rallying call to its 300 members last week, urging they call on MPs to hold the Treasury and Department of Transport to account on sector-specific support and the cost of PCR tests. It warned that half of all inbound tour operators could cease trading by Christmas.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said that specific support for any individual sector would be “challenging”.
But Croft dismissed the government’s response to requests for support up to now as “generic” and said: “We need to recognise travel is not open and needs support until it is.
“We have furlough being removed this month [and] we’re in for a hugely challenging autumn. Now the UK economy has opened up there is a greater argument that the government needs to support those sectors that have not been able to open.
“We’re talking about £47 million [for the inbound sector]. That would be enough to secure the future of 230 destination management companies (DMCs) through to next year.
“We need to secure government support through to spring time, and we can’t let the government get away with generic responses.
“The removal of furlough [means] pulling the rug from under people’s feet. To support businesses for 18 months then pull the rug from under them seems counter intuitive.”
Croft believes a lack of understanding of the industry is to blame. He told Travel Weekly: “DCMS [the Department for Culture] is making a strong case for the sector, but it doesn’t hold the levers of power. Those lie with the Treasury, Number 10 and the Cabinet office.
“There is a reticence on the part of government to be seen to support one sector over another and concerns about how any money might be distributed.
“But some of it is due to a lack of understanding. There is an idea within government that if businesses fail someone else will jump into their place. But with [travel] intermediaries that is not necessarily the case. Suppliers might not shift to other Destination Management Companies [DMCs] but to other destinations.
“People need intermediaries. They use tour operators to reduce complexity and worry. [But] politicians don’t understand the supply chain or when people get paid.”
However, Croft has not given up hope, saying: “We’ve seen the government can move quite late on these things. Everyone hopes we might see a change of heart. We’re not giving up on it.”
The UKinbound Annual Convention is taking place on September 16-17.