The industry is facing some of its worst “headwinds” in more than 30 years as fears rise about the impact of political uncertainty following last week’s general election.
The Conservatives failed to win a majority, which has resulted in a hung parliament.
Classic Collection managing director Nick Munday said: “Nobody is punching the air. Election day was supposed to end of the quiet period, normal service was supposed to resume, but it was a complete disaster.”
The combination of the weakened pound, terrorist attacks and Brexit meant the industry faced some of the “worse headwinds I’ve seen in my 37 year career”, he said, with demand down immediately after the result announcement.
As Travel Weekly went to press, Prime Minister Theresa May had begun talks with the Democratic Unionist Party to seek a deal to allow the Conservatives to govern.
Alan Bowen, legal adviser to the Association of Atol Companies, said: “It’s a worry the deal is not done yet. There is only around five weeks until the school holidays and when there is uncertainty people don’t like to spend money.”
Bowen said a deal with the DUP could bring “some hope” of a soft Brexit but claimed a reduction in APD and a third runway at Heathrow would be “written off”.
However, White Hart Associates senior partner Chris Photi said: “What we should be excited about is the DUP are hell-bent on reducing tourism taxes and particularly APD so they can compete with the Republic of Ireland.”
Teletext Holidays chairman Steve Endacott warned: “Because we have a minority government we have not got a clear strategy and that will cause the value of our currency to go down.”
The Advantage Travel Partnership managing director Julia Lo Bue-Said conceded uncertainty was unwelcome but remained optimistic about late holiday sales for this summer.
She said: “Every time there is an election it creates a period of instability… hopefully the consumer is resilient and life gets back to normal as soon as possible.”
Hays Travel managing director John Hays said there did not appear to be any ‘pause’ in bookings so far.
Miles Morgan Travel managing director Miles Morgan said the election result was “disappointing” but added: “People always want to travel.”
Abta said it would engage with newly elected MPs to encourage support for the industry’s priorities, including for Brexit negotiations and “prompt action” on fake holiday sickness claims.
Abta public affairs director Alan Wardle said: “It is vital there is no delay in tackling the important issues facing our industry.”
UKinbound has demanded a review of the new government’s approach to Brexit negotiations while the British Airline Pilots’ Association has urged the new government to turn its attention urgently to UK aviation issues, including Brexit and airport expansion.
Speaking at the Institute of Travel and Tourism conference Steven Easom, Advantage Travel Partnership non-executive chairman, said the election result demonstrated the impact of the millennial generation. He urged businesses to adapt to the needs of the younger generation “or die”.
He said: “They behave in a completely different way to any generation before them. They are making and breaking businesses, familiar names will disappear because they are no longer relevant and attractive. Once motivated and engaged they are really a powerful force.”
Dermot Blastland, non-executive director at Love Holidays, warned travel firms against reining in investment due to uncertainty caused by the election result.
“If you are a UK-based you are still going to invest because the recent record of the British public is they are still going to travel. One of the things I learned at Thomson was that smart companies carry on investing through the trough. … so when it picks up you are ahead of the game.”
More on the general election:
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