Ministers are being urged to consider “extraordinary support measures” for the UK travel and tourism sector due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Abta has written to prime minister Boris Johnson ahead of Wednesday’s Budget calling for action to protect healthy businesses that may suffer financial distress.

Measures suggested could include bridging loans, a relief to business rates, VAT and PAYE deadline extensions and reliefs and a six month ‘holiday’ from Air Passenger Duty.

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The call to government follows a meeting between the travel association and new tourism minister Nigel Huddleston – former head of travel at Google – last week.

Agents and operators have received an increasing number of questions from concerned customers about their travel plans.

Coronavirus travel impact poll

A poll of members to ask them about business impacts if the coronavirus outbreak continues to worsen found that the majority (88%) are receiving enquiries from consumers that are due to travel to areas that are not even affected.

With updates to travel advice from the Foreign Office affecting parts of China, South Korea and all of Italy from last night, members have also been liaising with customers with imminent package holidays to offer alternative arrangements.

Abta coronavirus guidance

Abta is conducting high level of media and communications activity in an attempt to provide perspective, give accurate information and guidance to the travelling public and highlight the benefits of booking package holidays, which come with a range of consumer protections.

These messages have been communicated to national and regional media, amounting to more than 400 pieces of coverage since the end of January alone, with a combined reach of over 200 million viewers, listeners and readers.

The association has also been running a proactive paid for Facebook campaign to target people looking to travel with its latest advice. This has resulted in more than 850,000 impressions and will continue to engage with travellers over the coming weeks.

A conference call with members is being held today (Tuesday) to provide an update on the situation and address questions.

A recording of the call will be made available on March 11 here.

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “As the outbreak of coronavirus develops, travel businesses are under increasing pressure.

“They cannot wait to see what may happen in the months to come, we are asking the government to act now in taking steps to protect them.

“Among the travelling public, our priority remains to be proactive in providing up to date fact-based information and to give perspective so they can make informed decisions.

“We are also explaining the protections that are in place if they’re no longer able to travel.”

UKinbound calls for coronavirus support

UKinbound – which represents more than 400 inbound tourism businesses – has asked the government for financial support amid the coronavirus outbreak.

It has written to the culture secretary Oliver Dowden and tourism minister Nigel Huddleston ahead of Wednesday’s Budget.

The association called for a pause on business rates for at least three months and any quarantined area to have business rates abolished for the period of non-trading.

It also wants a payment delay on taxes such as VAT and PAYE to ease cash flow, and the availability of low or interest-free loans to cover trade disruption.

Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, said: “This is a very stressful and worrying time for the UK tourism industry and travel and tourism worldwide.

“A lot of our members have been massively impacted by Covid-19 and the real worry is that businesses could go under if this situation continues as there are minimal bookings for the normally busy spring and summer months.

“We are hoping that government will do the right thing in the Budget this week and provide financial support for businesses that are currently struggling with cash flow and business payments, in order to tide them over until this crisis has abated.

“We also continue to urge our members to be as lenient as possible with each other with regards to their cancellation policies, as we know that in the coming months there will be a huge pent up demand for travel to the UK.”