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Coronavirus: ABTA calls for urgent support for the travel industry from Government

ABTA, travel, UK, tourism, coronavirus, cruise
photo_camera Association of British Travel Agents

Leading travel association ABTA has once called for urgent support from the Government to help businesses through the short-term and to prevent potentially thousands of people from the risk of bankruptcy.

This call follows on from the association’s last plea to the Government on 10 March to consider “extraordinary” support measures for businesses operating in the UK’s travel and tourism sector in light of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Travel businesses are working around the clock to manage arrangements for customers in destination, including repatriation, and have been trying to provide alternative arrangements for those with imminent departures but this is becoming increasingly difficult as the virus spreads, the association has stressed.

Travel agents and tour operators are also facing a huge drop in bookings, says ABTA.

Because of the unique circumstances of the pandemic, ABTA has again written to the prime minister and the secretary of state at the department for business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS), calling for temporary changes to the UK Package Travel Regulations at European and UK government level, with immediate effect.

The association highlighted that the existing financial protection structures and regulations have not been designed to cope with a large-scale collapse of businesses.

The changes ABTA is asking for include:

  • That tour operators should not be responsible for providing refunds if these costs are not covered by the suppliers (e.g. the hotel or airline). Where those suppliers cannot or will not refund, there needs to be an emergency government consumer hardship fund to fulfill refund payments.
  • That the 14-day window in the Regulations for refund payments should be removed.
  • That refund credits should be allowed as an acceptable alternative to cash refunds, with all protections carried forward as part of the refund credit.

The association is also calling for the following:

  • Urgent action to enable the provision to all sizes of business of loans that the Chancellor and Bank of England announced last week with the access mechanisms for these loans made clear.
  • A suspension of Air Passenger Duty, the saving of which to be passed onto the consumer to help the sector to recover at the earliest opportunity.
  • Immediate deferment of HMRC payments for a period of six months in order to support cash flow.

ABTA’s chief executive, Mark Tanzer, commented:

“The evolving coronavirus situation is causing immense damage to UK travel businesses.

“I am calling for urgent action today by the Government to make money available to travel and tourism companies and to make temporary changes to existing package travel regulation. Without this action, we risk healthy travel businesses going bankrupt, thousands of job losses across the country and customers losing money.”

Visit ABTA’s coronavirus advice page for the latest travel updates.

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