Abta is seeking urgent clarification from government after travel agents were removed from an official list of ‘non essential shops’ forced to close during England’s current lockdown.

The removal of agents from the non-essential retailers list means they will not automatically be considered for grant aid from local authorities, worth up to £3,000.

An Abta spokesperson said: “When the government first published its guidance on the non-essential shops which had to close under the latest lockdown in England, travel agents were specifically mentioned on the list – and were also referenced by the chancellor as eligible for grants. However, it appears that they have since been removed.

“We raised this as an urgent matter with government officials [on November 16] and will be following up with government ministers today [Nov 17] to try to understand what has happened and why.”

Abta was alerted to the recent change after writing to local authorities urging them to make support funding available to travel businesses during the lockdown.

Taking agents off the list would mean they are not automatically considered for a Local Restriction Support Grant, worth up to £3,000 per premises, although they could be eligible for a discretionary Additional Restrictions Grant, said Abta.

The spokesperson added: “We appreciate how concerning this is for members and we are working to get to the bottom of it as soon as possible, as well as arguing the importance of grant funding for our members.”

The news follows Abta’s renewed plea to government to act to save the industry from the brink of collapse with a warning that job losses in the sector have significantly increased in the last three months.

It also comes after a leading lawyer identified ‘massive implications’ of the new guidance on the extended furlough scheme for employers.