Ministers have been slammed by specialist travel association Aito for “riding roughshod” over the travel industry while “leaving carnage behind”.
Aito deputy chairman Derek Moore condemned government policy to combat Covid-19 – including instructions not to book summer holidays – for destroying the travel industry.
Moore said: “Ministers in government seem to behave as if they are in the Wild West – gallop in, shoot people, leave carnage, don’t explain anything clearly and head straight on to the next ambush.
“It has to stop, for the sake of the UK travel industry and of all who work in travel.
“We all deserve so much better, quite frankly, especially after nearly 13 months with zero income.”
What is needed from government “is not rocket science”, he added.
“At present, vaccination is well underway and seems to be very successful,” Moore said.
“Our customers seem to understand better than ministers; our customers – many over 50 – know that they will soon be vaccinated for self-protection.
“Our customers understand that remembering face, space and hands, and the wearing of face masks whenever in public will need to continue, whether they are at home or abroad on holiday, and they accept/can cope with that.
“Having been cooped up at home for months, unable to meet family and friends, they want something to plan and to look forward to – a decent holiday is an essential this year, for our customers and for the survival of the entire travel industry.
“Government needs to make it crystal clear that the new measures talked about today – border closures and quarantine hotels – will be reviewed – that they are not set in stone.
“People planning on travelling from June onwards will now think, incorrectly, that they will be subject to these latest restrictions.
“But, by June, a huge proportion of the UK population will have been vaccinated. Why frighten people and put them off booking holidays totally unnecessarily?”
Moore continued: “Another key question is why don’t ministers realise their role in destroying the formerly vibrant travel industry – tour operators and travel agents – to whom no sector-specific help has been given?
“Do they really want many thousands of people to lose their jobs and become reliant on state aid when they could so easily be kept in work, paying tax – people and companies alike – and delivering much-appreciated, financially-protected holidays?
“Government seems to think that the travel industry = aviation. That is totally incorrect, Tour operators and travel agents create flight-inclusive holidays worldwide, and so keep the aviation industry flying.
“They keep the world connected and also deliver inbound tourism to the UK – which is a huge creator of wealth and employment for the UK.”
He outlined five key action points for ministers:
- Talk to travel industry trade bodies such as Aito and Abta, to gain a clear understanding of the sector and its “massive” problems. “If you are going to stop holidaymakers from booking holidays with us, give us sector-specific support until your travel restrictions have ceased; this is long overdue, as we’ve now struggled on for nearly 13 months with zero income but a hell of a lot of costs.”
- Think before you speak. “So much damage is being caused everywhere by simply daft, off the cuff remarks: ‘Well, I’m going to Cornwall for my holidays.’ ‘I certainly wouldn’t book a holiday now’, etc, etc.”
- Set up affordable – and co-ordinated – testing. “It is essential to replace quarantine with testing, and testing will almost certainly need to be a part of the mix, at least at the early part of the summer, for travel to function seamlessly.”
- Ensure that various government departments, including the Competition and Markets Authority, stop “crucifying” the travel industry without good reason. “Again, it’s down to government understanding the travel industry’s problems and not exacerbating them unnecessarily. We need support, not an unhelpful kick in the teeth.”
- Remember that holidays are important for mental health, for international understanding and friendship and for education, not to mention economic support and employment, both in the UK and overseas. “Yes, holidays must be safe too, of course – but, with vaccination, testing, the wearing of face masks and the constant mantra of face, space and hands, that is perfectly achievable. Panic and fear is certainly not the way forward.”
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