Abta has written to prime minister Boris Johnson outlining plans it believes the government can implement to save tens of thousands of jobs in the outbound travel industry.

The association gave Johnson an update on the specific challenges the industry is facing, focussing in particular on travel agents and tour operators.

It called for a “coordinated strategy” from government, supported by “specific measures and clear communication” – and pointed out that the outbound travel industry contributes over £37 billion annually to the UK economy, supporting 500,000 jobs.

In the letter, chief executive Mark Tanzer acknowledged the government must make difficult decisions during the crisis but offered three ‘practical steps’ that Abta believes, if taken, could make the difference between tens of thousands of jobs surviving or being lost.

The letter sets out the scale of the challenges that tour operators and travel agents are facing, including the Foreign Office travel advice against all but essential travel, uncertainty regarding the approach to lockdown in different destinations, and the issue of refunds – to explain how suppliers, and particularly airlines, are not refunding monies owed down the pipeline.

Abta’s ‘practical steps’ include:

  • Ensuring any quarantine measures that are proposed are part of a wider strategy, including consideration of FCO travel advice. Any measures should be based on health and scientific advice and be proportionate, targeted and limited only to what is necessary to protect public health, and they should be communicated clearly.
  • Providing guidance and clarity on refunds for package holidays, including confirming clearly and publicly that Refund Credit Notes covering Atol package holidays with flights are financially protected.
  • Working with the Association of British Insurers and individual insurers, to ensure adequate travel insurance cover is available to customers for when FCO travel restrictions start to be lifted.

Tanzer said: “We understand the government must make difficult decisions and we’re grateful for the business support measures it has introduced to date, but our concern is that these will not be enough to avoid large scale job losses and business failures in the travel industry which will impact every region in the UK.

“Abta is eager to contribute to government efforts because we need a strategic and coordinated approach, supported by practical steps to save future travel and aid its recovery. The success of the government’s plan for recovery will depend on the return of consumer confidence which requires clear and consistent communication.”

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