ABTA: “Travel agents and tour operators are much needed right now”

TD Editor

ABTA is stepping up its request to the Chancellor to extend the government’s salary support scheme for the UK travel industry, in recognition that travel companies will emerge from the current crisis much slower than other sectors of the UK economy.

In addition, in discussions and correspondence with ministers, ABTA is asking for help so travel companies can better support travellers disrupted by the Covid-19 crisis  – by requesting HM Treasury relax current furlough rules to allow travel staff to help tackle a growing backlog of queries from customers looking for assistance following the Foreign Office’s advice against all but essential travel abroad.

“The Government furlough scheme has provided a much-needed lifeline”

Under the furlough scheme, companies can apply for assistance with staff wages being paid by HMRC, 80% of wages are covered up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. The intention of the scheme is to help companies retain staff who they might otherwise have to make redundant. These staff are particularly needed as companies pursue suppliers for refunds which can then be passed on to customers. ABTA is seeking support for travel businesses through what it expects to be a prolonged recovery period, as destinations across the globe gradually lift their own restrictions and consumer confidence returns.

Luke Petherbridge, ABTA head of public affairs, said: “The Government furlough scheme has provided a much-needed lifeline to travel companies encountering significant financial challenges as the lockdown on international and domestic travel continues. Without the scheme, we would have seen thousands of job losses across the travel industry.

However, the existing rules are overly restrictive and ABTA urges Ministers to relax the requirement which prevents furloughed staff from carrying out even non-revenue raising duties. Travel agents and tour operators are much needed right now, to assist with the disruption Covid-19 has caused travellers. Enabling these staff to go back to work will provide immediate benefits to customers whose holidays have been affected.”

“Travel supports the employment of more than 500,000 people”

Petherbridge went on to add, “The Chancellor has already indicated that he is open to extending the scheme beyond the end of June, and it is important that this includes putting in place a plan for economic recovery. Travel supports the employment of more than 500,000 people across the UK, and it is vital businesses are supported to retain as many jobs in our industry as possible.

In addition, the existing rules are overly restrictive. ABTA urges Ministers to relax the requirement which prevents furloughed staff from carrying out even non-revenue raising duties. Travel agents and tour operators are much needed right now, to assist with the disruption Covid-19 has caused travellers. Enabling these staff to go back to work will provide immediate benefits to customers whose holidays have been affected.”

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