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ABTA Issues Open Letter to UK Prime Minister

ABTA Issues Open Letter to UK Prime Minister

ABTA – The Travel Association – issued an open letter to Boris Johnson ahead of the prime minister’s announcement today, February 22, about the immediate future of the restriction regime in Britain. Issued in partnership with the Save Future Travel Coalition and many leading organisations and businesses from across the travel industry including TUI, easyJet holidays and Airlines UK, the letter calls for the Government to collaborate with the industry on a roadmap to recovery and provide tailored financial support.

The letter reads as follows:

Dear Prime Minister,

The coronavirus pandemic has been devastating for many businesses across the country, with the impact on the travel industry particularly severe. There has been little opportunity to recover or generate income since the virus first affected the sector 12 months ago, with government policies effectively shutting down international travel for most of the past year.

We understand that the Government has taken the steps it feels necessary to prevent the spread of coronavirus and the introduction of new variants into the UK, and we have supported the Government in these measures. Public health must come first.

But this has taken its toll on the sector. Around 160,000 jobs have been lost and many businesses have closed their doors for good, with the economic output for travel down by 86% for travel agents and tour operators, and 90% for aviation, between February and December 2020, according to recent figures from the Office for National Statistics.

With the vaccine rollout now progressing well, and as you look to how the lockdown can be eased, 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. We also encourage coordination across the UK, where possible.

In particular, the Government should:

  • 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 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 22 February 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 £80bn contribution the sector makes to the UK economy.

Yours sincerely,

It is signed by:

Mark Tanzer, CEO of ABTA; Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO Advantage Travel Partnership; Martyn Sumners, Executive Director, AITO; Brian Young, chairman of Association of Touring and Adventure Suppliers; Clive Wratten, CEO The Business Travel Association; Andy Harmer, National Director UK & Ireland, CLIA; Willie Stewart, Keep Travel Alive; Damian Murphy, Chairman Association of Northern Ireland Travel Agents; Joanne Dooey, President The Scottish Passenger Agents Association; Charles Owen, Director Seasonal Business in Travel; Joss Croft, CEO, UK Inbound; Tim Alderslade, CEO, Airlines UK; Gill Harvey, CEO The School Travel Forum; Nigel Vere Nicoll, president, African Travel & Tourism Association; Danny Callaghan, CEO, Latin American Travel Association; Garry Wilson, CEO, easyJet Holidays; Andrew Flintham, MD, TUI UK & Ireland; Steve Heapy, CEO, Jet2.com & Jet2 Holidays; and Derek Jones, CEO Der Touristik UK – Kuoni.

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Fionn Davenport is the editor-in-chief of the ITTN group, including ITTN and ITTN Ireland. He's one of Ireland's best-known travel journalists and writers, with nearly 30 years' experience writing guidebooks for Lonely Planet and others.

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