The Save Future Travel Coalition has once again urged government to provide cost-effective testing, commit to facilitating a vaccine certificate and return to a regional approach to Foreign Office travel advice to offer the industry “a route out of the crisis”.

Abta has written to prime minister Boris Johnson on behalf of the group ahead of his February 22 announcement on a roadmap out of lockdown – but reiterated it does not ask for a specific date.

The letter’s signatories include the bosses the UK’s two largest tour operators, Tui and Jet2holidays, the chief executives of easyJet holidays and Kuoni, as well as the leaders of the various trade associations that make up the coalition.

It noted the impact of the coronavirus on the travel industry had been “particularly severe” and that the sector has had “little opportunity to recover or generate income” in the last 12 months “with government policies effectively shutting down international travel for most of the past year”.

The signatories accept “public health must come first” and say they have “supported the government in these measures”.

“But this has taken its toll on the sector,” it adds, pointing out that about 160,000 jobs in the industry have been lost and many businesses have “closed their doors for good”

Pointing to recent Office for National Statistics data which shows the economic output for travel down by 86% for travel agents and tour operators, and 90% for aviation, between February and December 2020, it added: “We ask you to provide a roadmap to get people travelling again this summer.”

“We know that it is too early to put a specific date on the return to international travel, and that there will be a need for flexibility in the approach, but what we need are some principles for restarting travel – recognising that the return to normal life will never be entirely risk-free,” it said. “We also encourage coordination across the UK, where possible.”

The Save Future Travel Coalition calls for the government to:

  • Recognise that we cannot wait for the full rollout of the vaccination programme before people start to travel again, and that not everyone can or will want to be vaccinated, so a practical and cost-effective testing regime will be critical.
  • Facilitate travel through a recognised vaccine certificate to enable restrictions to be relaxed for some travellers.
  • Return Foreign Office travel advice on COVID-19 to a regional basis, as opposed to a whole country level, and ensure the advice focuses on the risk to people in destinations. Also review existing Government advice against travel in specific sectors, such as school travel, in light of the improving medical situation and vaccine rollout.

The letter added: “The government needs to provide tailored financial support to help all travel businesses through to recovery, including grants that take account of the impact of international travel restrictions, and the extension of other support measures, such as business rates relief, into the next financial year.

“We also know that the recovery of travel is likely to be gradual, which will require the maintenance of flexible furlough support throughout the summer season, as well as other regulatory alleviations and support measures to help businesses meet their fixed costs.

“We urge you to use your announcement on February 22 to provide a route out of the crisis for the travel industry, to help safeguard the livelihoods of the hundreds of thousands of people employed in the sector and rebuild the £80 billion contribution the sector makes to the UK economy.”