Miles Morgan Travel chairman Miles Morgan calls on chancellor to help travel through winter

The past six months have been tough for everyone in the travel industry, either working 24/7 in what has been at times a pressure cooker or on furlough worried about future job prospects.

Small-business owners like me with multiple shops, and single agency owners, are juggling the pressure of the here and now with customers’ demands for refunds or rebookings for next year with our responsibility to our staff.

It’s a tough and, at times, lonely place to be, carrying the added pressure of people that are not just staff but a whole lot more – friends.

In the past few weeks, I have spoken to many and shared our issues, something that has not really happened before. Many are people I talk to regularly, but others are people who have simply picked up the phone to talk. The old adage that a problem shared is a problem halved has never been truer.

At times like this it can be lonely, so simply sharing ideas, thoughts, hopes and fears has been great. I will not share confidences but I can say it has put the seriousness of the situation in full focus. People with great businesses have been talking about simply walking away from companies they have taken years to nurture, develop and make successful.

Awful position

These people don’t have basket-case businesses: they have (pre-Covid) very successful ones that have paid thousands of pounds in corporation tax and employed and continue to employ many people. Should they walk away now and cut their loses? Or roll the dice on the pick-up of business coming soon? The latter is an option that, if it goes wrong, will even risk their house. This is a truly awful position.

Most businesses across all parts of the economy have had a tough time throughout Covid. The hospitality industry is one that has, for some reason, been singled out for extra support to get people doing ‘normal’ things – like eating out – again.

But the financial support argument for hospitality is hard to identify. A pub or restaurant simply closes its doors and furloughs its staff. A travel agency, on the other hand, can’t furlough all its staff, because they are busy refunding customers, giving back lots of the money the business had made through bookings made in its peak season. Imagine that pub or restaurant having to give back its December profits and having to pay their chef to do it! That is essentially what we have done.

I’m not pub and restaurant bashing; they have got it tough. I’m simply drawing a comparison with travel and wondering what we need to do to get more support from government.

Horror show

I sincerely hope the many people I have spoken to get extra support to allow them to roll the dice on the future of their businesses. Many have survived the Icelandic ash cloud, 9/11 and Gulf wars, but this is different. The uncertainty in the short term is coupled with the government’s holiday roulette every week. And we don’t know when this horror show will end.

Yet everyone I have spoken to believes travel will return fast when people can travel safely and with certainty again. They think they will be very, very busy, but they just don’t know when.

We need a stop to the blanket quarantine on countries and to introduce testing at airports ASAP. We need money to help employ our staff after November 1. Without this, I can see huge portions of the travel industry disappearing completely and either being replaced by new start-ups when things return or, in some cases, going for ever.

This would be a travesty for the amazing people I have spoken to over the last few weeks and months that have worked so hard to grow their businesses. Rishi, it’s time to stand up and support the travel industry before it’s too late.