A leading travel agent has taken the mayor of Greater Manchester to task on live radio for not responding to his request to meet with him to discuss the future of the industry.
Richard Slater, owner of Macclesfield-based agency Henbury Travel and north-west regional chair of Abta, raised several points around financial support for the travel trade on Mike Sweeney’s BBC Radio Manchester programme, which Andy Burnham joined on Thursday.
Slater said it was “not acceptable” that he had not heard back from Burnham’s office as the travel industry is one of the biggest employers in the north-west region and asked why agents did not receive as much government support as businesses like hairdressers.
After apologising for not replying to Slater, Burnham said: “Richard is raising fair points. The travel industry has been hit by the mismanagement of the travel restrictions internationally.
“I don’t think it has had the support that it needs. Those industries that have been held back; the support needs to be more targeted on those industries.
“There needs to be more support targeted on those industries and maybe less so on the ones that are beginning to open up. I know that Manchester Airport feel very strongly about this about the, at times, chaotic approach to the management of travel.”
Burnham went on to say that there should have been “a much tougher approach” to border security at the beginning of the pandemic, adding that airports “wanted to do more testing”.
On the subject of tens of thousands of passengers arriving in the UK from India in spring despite a huge surge in Covid-19 cases there, Burnham added: “I think when it comes to issues around the red list they’ve mixed in political considerations with regards to their relationship with the country.
“[For instance] with India there was talk of a prime minister visit and that clouded the judgement with India and the speed with it being put on the red list. This has been a real weak link in our chain.
“Last week. people here [in Greater Manchester] were getting blamed about the Delta variant but let’s take it back a step – it came into Greater Manchester via that failure to not put India on the red list at the right time.”
Slater later posted a clip of the show on Facebook. He wrote: “It’s important to stress that the outbound travel industry do not want an open world immediately.
“What we want is a slow, progressive and structured reopening only to areas that are safe, without the need for expensive PCR tests or quarantine.
“The inbound tourism industry wants to see guests from countries vaccinated, or where infection rates are lower than ours to be allowed to visit.
“In the meantime, whilst these business are not generating income, they do need sector specific support.”