Industry leaders have said the outbound travel sector risks appearing “fragmented” in its lobbying efforts and warned that making demands for a specific restart date could undermine ongoing conversations with the government.
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership, a member of the Save Future Travel Coalition, which was set up in September 2020, called for the industry to speak with “a single voice”.
Her comments came after the launch this week of the Save Our Summer campaign, which has been supported by 600 members having launched on Monday with 110 – and is backed by upwards of 1,000 individuals.
The two campaigns have different demands of government.
The Save Future Travel Coalition calls for government to extend financial support measures including grant schemes, VAT deferrals and the furlough scheme, recognise the unique regulatory restrictions placed upon travel, and enable travel businesses to trade out of the crisis by setting out a ‘roadmap’ for how it might return.
Save Our Summer also wants a roadmap for the industry but is calling for the government to set a date – May 1 – for travel to begin to resume, noting the most vulnerable groups in the UK are expected to have been vaccinated by then.
Companies that have joined as members have agreed to offer refunds to any customer who books but is later not able to travel as a result of government-imposed travel restrictions. It has also polled members, who say they expect to lay off 20% of staff without a clear roadmap.
Writing on travelweekly.co.uk, Lo Bue-Said said: “The mixed reactions across the industry are presenting ourselves in a fragmented manner.”
She said she appreciated the lack of clarity from government on travel’s restart was “extremely frustrating” for the industry, but said she believed it was important to “create the right noise” in lobbying efforts.
Lo Bue-Said said the industry should lobby government “using the right avenues”, adding: “It’s more important than ever before to come together as a single voice.”
She also said the industry had to tread carefully as there was a lingering “reputational damage” for travel companies as a result of complications over refunds last year.
“At a time when emotions and frustrations are heightened, and with the grim reality of the extreme financial pressures on travel businesses, our focus should be on how we recover – not when,” she added. “We cannot control ‘when’ but we can control the ‘how’.”
Danny Callaghan, chief executive of the Latin American Travel Association and co-chairman of another lobbying body, the Travel Industry Alliance, said: “The ‘ultimatum’ of a date for the restart of travel in the latest campaign has actually risked a lot of the good work that has been going on behind the scenes with the government.
“There is no doubt that we need a roadmap out of the current restrictions and lobbying around that piece of work continues.”
Callaghan said demanding a date “suggests to ministers and MPs that this sector is unaware of the government’s challenges and not willing to work in a realistic way”.
Save Our Summer co-founder Paul Charles, chief executive of the PC Agency, said: “It’s important for relevant pressure to be applied at all levels of government and to ensure the public are aware that it’s not illegal to book a future trip.
“The growing list of SOS supporters are united in wanting a clear roadmap to re-open this summer and urging the prime minister to set out his intentions for how to help the sector rebuild.”
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