Travel Counsellors chief urges taskforce to ‘use time wisely’ to build confidence

The boss of the UK’s largest travel homeworking organisation has urged the government to “use the time wisely” between now and the Global Travel Taskforce reporting next month to “put things in place that ensure customers can book holidays with complete confidence”.

Speaking on Travel Weekly webcast, Travel Counsellors chief executive Steve Byrne said: “I know some people have called for it not to take as long and obviously, we’d all benefit if it was brought forward.

“But I think it’s much more important that the time is used wisely to make sure that people can travel with confidence.

“We’ve all got a commercial interest and we’re all very close to the impact this has had on businesses and people’s lives and livelihoods, but we’ve also got a shared interest because of this duty of care to our customer; because we are their professional advisors, to make sure that people can travel safely.”

Byrne urged ministers: “Put things in place to enable customers to be able to book with confidence – and confidence that not only can I travel safely, but also confidence that my trip is going to take place.

“The last thing that we want, as an industry which is passionate about looking after our customers, is any further announcements that cause customers worrying and vexing about ‘have I done the right thing in booking this holiday?’.”

Byrne remained positive that the taskforce would report back with a clear path to restarting international travel.

“I think they’ve created some time on the basis that they realise there are things that can be done. There are things happening and as soon as the government eases restrictions, then businesses will respond,” he said.

“And we will use technology to enable customers to make informed decisions and to travel safely. The technology is emerging so I’m confident that will happen.”

But he insisted the government must support the industry financially until travel is allowed to resume and money can be earned.

“The approach that I would encourage them to take is that caring has got no limits,” he said. “All of us are caring and thoughtful about the health impact of all of this, and we’ll all know of people who have either sadly lost their lives from this or been affected by it.

“So we’re all attuned to that as human beings. But if we’re going to care for people in that way, which is the right thing to do, and as a result make decisions that affect people in other ways, as in their livelihoods, their income, their mental health and their business risk, then we have to care for them too.”

He added: “If there is going to be any further uncertainty about travel and changes to travel, then they have to mirror that with caring for the people who are affected by that, too. So that’s our industry and all the people that that are part of it.

“So long as we cannot get the income that otherwise we would have got, let’s make sure that people are supported to get through it so that we can look after people when travel bounces back.”

Byrne said: “Obviously, those two things have not been done in tandem over the course of the past nine to 10 months, and we hope that with the Budget that the support is there, both for businesses generally, and particularly those that in our sector and the people in our sector, who have been the hardest hit.

“I’ve heard different things [about the potential for specific support]. So let’s wait and see. We’ve created some noise in the industry through the various different campaigns over the course of the past couple of months and we’ve done our own things too. So let’s hope it cuts through.”

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