ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer has called on the chancellor to include “tailored support” for the travel sector in the upcoming budget.
Rishi Sunak is poised to deliver his plan on 3 March, in what is seen as a pivotal moment as the government looks to restart the economy following months of hardship because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Writing in a blog post, Tanzer said that despite the “rare bit of good news for the industry” following the government’s announcement of a roadmap out of lockdown, “difficult months still lie ahead” and therefore “we need the government to support the industry through this time”.
Tanzer said: “The prime minister’s roadmap announcement on Monday delivered a rare bit of good news for the industry and it is good to see some customers responding to this by making plans and bookings for this summer.
“We are already engaged with government ministers and officials on the next steps for developing the roadmap for reopening travel and will be contributing to the work of the Global Travel Taskforce being led by the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, to make sure the views of our members are heard.
“We are under no illusion there is a lot of work that still needs to be done before people start travelling again and this remains our utmost priority.
“It is also important we continue to make the case for tailored financial support for the sector. With 12 months of lost income, travel remaining at a complete standstill and this year’s ski season and Easter holiday lost to the pandemic, difficult months still lie ahead and we need the government to support the industry through this time.
“It was encouraging to hear Boris Johnson on Monday give some recognition to travel, tourism and aviation being among the hardest hit sectors by the pandemic. The chancellor now needs to use the budget next week to act by extending furlough, VAT deferrals, and business rates relief for those sectors that will face a more gradual recovery, such as the travel industry. We also continue to call for tailored support in the form of grants which are available to all travel businesses.
“We also heard from Nicola Sturgeon this week that travel restrictions are likely to remain in place in Scotland as other measures start to ease. Following lobbying from ABTA and SPAA, the Scottish government has made grants available to travel agents, and this has now been extended to tour operators after further input from ABTA.
“The support offered to travel businesses will need to be ongoing for as long as travel remains off limits for people in Scotland, and ABTA is engaging again with ministers to make that case. We’ll continue to work with the other devolved bodies on financial support and restart issues in the coming weeks.
“This week’s positive news needs to be reinforced by the chancellor in his budget speech next week.”