The Association of Touring & Adventure Suppliers (Atas) is calling for urgent support from government to help members survive the coronavirus crisis.
In addition to financial backing, Atas members are asking for Package Travel Regulations to change, to allow credit in lieu of cash refunds.
The association also wants salary support to help employers guarantee jobs and a payment holiday for workers paying their mortgages.
The details are set out in a letter sent to tourism minister Nigel Huddleston, prime minister Boris Johnson and Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer.
It is also being sent by each member to their local MP, demonstrating the number of people they employ in the local community.
This is the full text of the letter:
The Association of Touring & Adventure Suppliers (Atas) is formally calling for government support for our members, who sell touring and adventure holidays globally and domestically to travellers, including those in the UK and Ireland.
This sector employs more than 5,000 people directly in the UK and tens of thousands worldwide.
The association was formed in 2017, bringing together leading suppliers in the sector, with the common goal of improving awareness and sales among the UK travel trade.
Atas now represents 30 of the UK’s operators, both established and new to the touring and adventure sector, acting as a single voice for this inspirational part of the industry. All members are signatories to this letter.
As a result of the global Covid-19 pandemic, the UK travel industry is facing a crisis of unprecedented proportions. This crisis has not only impacted the millions of UK travellers currently abroad or scheduled to travel in the near future, but also the industry as a whole.
The industry is therefore calling for urgent support from the government to assist through this crisis period so that it can return to the thriving sector that provides direct employment to more than 3.3 million UK residents.
As of 2018, the tourism industry was worth £145.9 billion (7.2%) of UK GDP.
Without immediate government support, this industry is facing large-scale collapse, the ramifications of which would reverberate throughout the UK at a time when economic certainty is most vital, given the UK’s pending departure from the European Union.
In addition to financial support, the UK Package Travel Regulations must be revised at UK and European government level, with immediate effect, so that travel companies can provide their customers whose travel was impacted by this crisis with a refund credit in lieu of a cash refund, a policy that has already been passed in parts of Europe over the last few days.
Failure to revise the regulations will result in widespread bankruptcies across the UK travel industry.
This will necessitate intervention by the Civil Aviation Authority to refund those passengers who booked with an Atol-licensed travel company via funds held in the Air Travel Trust Fund (ATTF), which the ATTF is not positioned to do following the recent collapse of Thomas Cook.
The impact to consumers would be magnitudes worse than it currently stands, as they would have neither a refund credit to apply to future travel nor a cash refund available to them.
In 2018, there were 71.7 million visits overseas by UK residents and overseas residents spent £22.9 billion on visits to the UK.
Tourism is a vital part of the UK economy and without immediate and impactful government intervention it faces the real possibility of collapse.
The industry implores the government to take immediate action and looks forward to working on a plan that will ensure that UK residents remain employed through this crisis.
The effects of COVID-19 are being felt throughout the world and this is not just restricted to operators, airlines and travel agents.
The very nature of the adventure and touring sector sees our members working closely with local communities in the destinations they operate in, creating much needed jobs and helping to distribute wealth into the local economy.
Many of our members actively work to develop community tourism initiatives, supporting vulnerable communities in some of the world’s most in-need destinations.
The ripple effect of the Covid-19 pandemic is as dangerous and devastating for these local communities as it is for the UK travel industry, but we have seen that tourism and the travel industry is resilient in the face of crisis and after, when provided with the right opportunity to recover.
Atas is also requesting that the government implements the following policies with immediate effect: salary support to help employers guarantee jobs across the travel sector, and actions to force mortgage lenders to offer a minimum of six months payment holiday to those working in the travel industry.
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