Comment: A long time in politics

Comment: A long time in politics

The government may be in difficulty, but travel appears to be on its agenda, says Abta head of public affairs Alan Wardle.

It may be only just over a month since the general election, but it somehow seems much longer – politics moves so fast these days.

There has been talk of leadership challenges to the much-weakened Theresa May, a Conservative deal with the Northern Ireland Unionist party the DUP to prop up the government, and we have seen a revitalised Jeremy Corbyn who had a much better election campaign than anyone expected.

The Brexit negotiations have also kicked off, a year after the country voted to leave the EU.

Following the election many of the key politicians the travel industry works with are the same as they were. Chris Grayling is still running the Department for Transport, and David Davis still leads the negotiations around Brexit.

But there is a new aviation minister, Lord Callanan, who spoke for the first time in his new role at Abta’s recent Travel Matters conference.

There is also a new tourism minister, John Glen, who is MP for Salisbury, one of the biggest tourist destinations in the UK with its beautiful cathedral.

Additionally, Abta’s ex-head of public affairs Luke Pollard is now MP for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport.

Abta has made contact with these new ministers and their counterparts in other parties, and written to more than 100 MPs reminding them of the importance of tourism and what we want them to do for the travel industry now they have been elected.

While much of the political talk has been about whether the government will be able to do anything very much without an overall majority, quite a lot has happened already that affects our industry.

The Atol Bill is now before Parliament. This will ensure the Atol scheme is fit for purpose when the revised Package Travel Directive comes into effect next July. The new rules will widen the definition of a package holiday and should protect more consumers.

There was the great news last weekend that the government is going to start to take action on fake holiday sickness claims following campaigning by Abta, Travel Weekly and the whole industry.

For Abta this represents the culmination of over a year’s work. It shows the power of the industry uniting around an issue.

There is more to do, such as tackling the scourge of cold calling, but the government’s announcement of an urgent review is a fantastic start.

The next big issue for Abta, once politicians come back from their sun loungers, is Brexit. It is vital that the key concerns of our sector – including the right to fly across Europe and ensuring travel companies can post workers in resorts – are listened to and acted upon by politicians.

We will be telling politicians in the UK and across Europe how important it is that travel’s voice is heard and that businesses are given time to plan properly for any changes.

We know the great British public value their holidays. Abta will continue to fight for its members and the industry to ensure people can travel with confidence in the years to come.

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