Special Report: Abta ‘will champion travel in wake of vote for Brexit’

Special Report: Abta ‘will champion travel in wake of vote for Brexit’

The fall out from the referendum is certain to be a hot topic at this year’s Abta Travel Convention in Abu Dhabi. Ian Taylor spoke to chief executive Mark Tanzer about its reaction

The government may lack clarity on how to proceed following the referendum, but Abta has a clear view of how to intervene on behalf of the industry. The association has kickstarted a four-point action plan, with chief executive Mark Tanzer warning: “The Brexit vote and how the process plays out will affect everything.”

He told Travel Weekly: “The most important thing we can do in the short term is to reassure travellers they can still travel. The pound has moved [down in value], although that may come back, but all other arrangements will be in place for some time to come.

“So the first thing is to reassure people booked to travel that they can. That will carry on through the summer.”

The reaction so far has been positive. He said: “We haven’t had a spike in calls from consumers since the referendum, because we and others have been strongly sending out the message that nothing has changed, that this process is going to take time.”

However, many areas that affect the sector could see a change of direction. Tanzer identified Abta’s second priority as being: “To ensure the government takes account of the common aviation agreement and visa-free movement around Europe, as soon as the political landscape is clearer.”

He said every sector would be lobbying for its own interests, so it will be vital for travel’s priorities to be heard. Tanzer said: “We will be up there saying, ‘These are economic priorities’.”

Airline bosses Carolyn McCall (easyJet), Michael O’Leary (Ryanair) and Willie Walsh (IAG) said last week they expect the UK to remain in the Common Aviation Agreement (Travel Weekly, June 30).

Tanzer said: “I’m encouraged by that. But everything is likely to go into one negotiation and the EU will say ‘If you want X, we want Y’.”

He added: “Third, we will analyse every aspect of the travel industry affected by this and the issues it raises. For example, where there are regulatory issues we will be asking do we want to keep them, ditch them or review them? That is a large piece of work that will go on for months, if not years. We’ll do it in consultation with members and working with our European colleagues in Brussels.”

Fourth, Abta will insist the government does not lose sight of urgent domestic issues such as the site of a new runway in the southeast. Tanzer said: “We need the government to focus on the domestic agenda. The [runway] issue is urgent and it can’t be delayed again.”

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced the latest delay in deciding whether to expand Heathrow or Gatwicklast week – until October – pending selection of a new Tory leader and prime minister.

Tanzer said the latest hold-up “may be totally predictable” in the circumstances, but he argued: “If we’d had a Remain vote it would have been full steam ahead. The vote is not an excuse for delaying. The fundamentals of the analysis by the Airports Commission have not changed. We need additional capacity in the southeast.”


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