The government “frowns upon” the travel industry as “flippant”, judging it merely as a provider of overseas holidays and not for its contribution to the economy and jobs.

That was the message from Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said, speaking on a Travel Weekly Webcast.

And she warned: “We’re a business that happens to sell travel, but we are a thriving business that is completely under siege and on the brink of complete catastrophe.”

Economic contribution

She explained: “For whatever reason, for the outbound travel market, it almost feels like we’re being judged and it’s frowned upon that the industry would even consider talking about taking holidays.

“If you forget the product we’re selling for a second… if you think about travel as an industry, we’re one of the biggest employers in the UK, in terms of GDP value, it’s phenomenal. So it’s not the fact that we are selling overseas travel, it’s actually a thriving business that supports not just the travel community, but the business aspect just gets overlooked – and that’s my frustration.”

Joanne Dooey, of Love2travel and president of the Scottish Passenger Agents Association (SPAA), added: “It’s not just for somebody to get the two weeks of holiday. It’s a bigger issue. We’ve already had Rolls Royce paying off a lot of people in Scotland and that’s all to do with the airline industry. But this is what’s getting pushed by the mainstream media, that it’s just for people to have their holiday, but it’s a bigger issue and I don’t think the government actually grasp that.”

Lack of understanding

Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency and co-ordinator of the Quash Quarantine campaign said: “Let’s be clear here. The government doesn’t understand how the travel industry operates. The fact that the industry, including hospitality, accounts for nearly four million jobs in the UK; the fact that it’s 11% of the workforce; the fact that is the backbone of the economy when you take into account business and leisure travel; and the fact that without planes going and short trips taking place, there was less cargo coming into the country, fewer exports and imports.

“The whole cycle for some reason has been ignored by the government and so they’ve been found wanting on this very issue. It has shown up the lack of depth across cabinet on how Britain’s economy works. It’s really scary, actually.”

Charles continued: “In 20 years in this industry, I have never seen relations between the travel and tourism sector and the government at such rock bottom levels. The trust has gone, so that’s going to need rebuilding. But, fundamentally, you’ve got a government here that remarkably, doesn’t seem to understand how the travel industry operates.”

Lo Bue-Said added: “It’s a real blow to the industry that we’re just not getting the traction and the support we need as a business.”