Today I have sent this letter to my local MP, delivering the truth on what travel businesses are faced with currently, and the problems it will bring further down the line if the government doesn’t give the industry tailored support.
RE: ‘Save Future Travel’ Coalition Campaign
Stop, let’s think. When was the last time you went on holiday? How did you get there? Was it arranged by a professional and financially protected company? Did you use local companies and services to enhance the experience? Have you ever considered how many people were employed in the UK to make this possible?
I’m writing today in response to the Chancellor’s Winter Economy Plan. We would love your assistance in not just helping to save our business, but many thousands of other travel businesses from insolvency across the UK and prevent further job losses. So far, the travel industry has been overlooked by both government and the media, despite going through extreme financial pressure without revenue or income since March.
Travel has been a passion since I was young. Although I achieved really good grades at A Level to go to a top university, I decided at the time to take an alternative path. In 2004, I took an apprenticeship in travel, a route that was seen as unattractive, compared to more academic options. However, with hard work, it has been possible not only to do the job well but be recognised within the industry for it. We live for the industry and love nothing more than to genuinely help people.
I work for a small company in Berkhamsted and have done for the last 16 years. Again, despite being small, we punch above our weight and have won multiple industry awards, including the Agent Achievement Awards and the Travel Weekly Globes and the industry press.
Travel is a strategically important sector for the UK economy, supporting more than £60bn in GVA and sustaining around 1 million jobs in the UK alone. In addition, the travel industry underpins the UK’s world-leading aviation industry, keeping the UK connected internationally and domestically, with those traveling for leisure and business vital to the viability of many air routes. Travel is not only a viable a sector, but also invaluable to the economic recovery of the country – and it is critical that the Government does all it can to help businesses and protect jobs.
What travel businesses need more than anything right now is for people to feel confident enough to travel again, and policy decisions taken by the Government to manage the pandemic have served to dampen consumer confidence and weaken the market. Recent surveys have shown that consumer confidence to travel has been affected more by the government’s quarantine policy and fear of isolation, than the actual virus. Despite a minority having an appetite to travel, people are wary of the financial impact of taking two weeks off work would have. Addressing these issues must now be a priority for Ministers to avoid long-term damage.
It is also important that the Chancellor considers tailored support for travel. The recently announced Job Support Scheme, extending support beyond the end of October is welcome in principle but will do little for travel in its current form. Under the proposed scheme, firms will be required to subsidise those hours not worked by their employees – with employers proportionally required to pay more the less work they receive. While income for travel businesses remains low or in some cases non-existent, this is simply not possible. This is in addition to the way Brexit negotiations have been carried out by the government, which had already affected consumer confidence.
In particular, as a travel agency business, we receive the majority of our income through commission that is paid on departure. Not only have we lost income through not making new bookings through summer months, but we also had to refund bookings already made, losing income the whole way through the year. Even if we are able to operate more fully now, we would need financial support to help us through to the next major travel period in Easter 2021.
As my local MP, I am asking you to write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Transport to urge them to consider the Save Future Travel Coalition’s plan to support travel businesses and protect jobs:
– A fully regionalised quarantine policy (German & European model)
– Introduction of testing as an additional mitigation measure
– Recovery grants for SME businesses, and those previously left out of support
– Review of the Job Support Scheme
– APD relief for summer 2021 to boost demand
If this industry is allowed to implode, of which the government seems to be advocating, I just want to outline the consequences that would bring.
Firstly, there would be mass redundancies, of which is already happening. There have been an estimated 12,000 jobs lost, with many more coming at the end of the month when the Job Retention Scheme ends, which has been estimated as high as 100,000 by the end of the year and potentially 550,000 if this sector is left to collapse.
With an increase in the number of travel businesses failing, there will be a widespread defaulting of CBILs/BBL loans, of which are guaranteed by the government where companies have failed, the ATOL scheme would likely collapse under the strain of failures within the industry, and therefore consumer protection on travel will be removed. This in itself will lead to pressure on banks, with people trying to reclaim money from these failures.
We would see failures across all the associated sectors – we’ll see airlines failing, airports closing, ferry lines shut, restaurants disappearing, tour guides out of work, and many other jobs being lost who rely on tourism both outbound and inbound. This includes suitcase makers, swimwear manufacturers, kennels and catteries, chauffeurs and so many more industries and services which rely on travel. There will be more fraud, anarchy, and poverty leading to mounting mental health issues and associated medical problems.
It will also leave a lack of choice and diversity, of which this industry proudly displays. It’s vibrant nature, offering a wide selection of products and services where only the ones with the deepest pockets would be able to survive. For a country which has until recently the world’s business international airport, a world-beating aviation and travel industry and ambitions after Brexit to be better and bolder as a ‘Global Britain’, this would be both be a travesty and economically destructive.
As you know, the travel industry is highly regulated. If, as what has been suggested that the industry is ‘unviable’, the infrastructure and financing to restart simply won’t be there. It isn’t possible to shut down and restart when the pandemic passes and will lead to a future of unregulated ‘wild west’ companies with a disregard for consumer protection.
Following months of policy decisions that have shaken confidence, and depressed demand, the Government needs to work with the industry to take the steps needed to put travel on a firmer footing for the winter season and into next year.
I would be grateful if you could help to raise these concerns through your parliamentary activities and to help us to highlight the viability and value of our industry, and I would be very happy to talk further about the challenges which face our industry.