ABTA – The Travel Association says the global travel industry has an opportunity and responsibility to rebuild in a more sustainable way following the coronavirus crisis, but that urgent action from the UK Government is critical in helping boost consumer confidence.
At the Association’s annual Travel Convention, held virtually this year, ABTA revealed new figures showing the impact of the coronavirus crisis on overseas travel. Only 15% of people took a foreign holiday between February and July 2020 compared to 51% over the 12-month period, and 64% the previous year.
More than half (53%) of people said they took fewer overseas holidays this past year compared to the previous year, with 87% of those saying they took fewer holidays because of coronavirus.
The current government restrictions around international travel are a major contributing factor in people’s reticence to travel, with 93% of people concerned about potential last-minute changes to foreign office travel advice and 4 in 5 people (80%) concerned about having to quarantine when they return from holiday to the UK.
While general support measures, such as furlough and the business interruption loan schemes, have given breathing space to some travel businesses, the Government has been too slow to act on the tailored support that ABTA has been calling for since the start of the crisis.
After a summer dominated by ever-changing quarantine rules and a dwindling number of destinations for holidaymakers to visit, and with the Government yet to adopt either a testing regime or a fully regionalised approach to foreign travel advice and quarantine measures – despite many other countries having these measures in place, we have already witnessed a number of travel companies fail and tens of thousands of jobs lost.
Without tailored support, including further grants to aid recovery, travel agents in particular face a very difficult few months ahead. These businesses, the vast majority of whom are SMEs, and which includes high-street businesses that are an integral part of communities across the UK, have had no revenue for nearly a year. The Job Support Scheme, which requires people to pay a minimum of 55% of salaries, does not go far enough for these businesses to avoid difficult decisions to let go of valued of staff members.
It is vital that the Global Travel Taskforce launched this month to consider a testing regime, and other measures to support the recovery of the travel industry acts decisively and urgently to help increase consumer confidence and get the industry moving again.
Support from the Government is even more critical as the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020 draws near. Many questions for travellers and travel businesses regarding the UK’s future arrangements with the EU remain unanswered and further clarity is essential to avoid even more disruption for the travel industry in 2021.
Looking ahead to travel and tourism’s recovery and future prosperity, new figures reveal that more than half of people (52%) believe that the travel industry should reopen in a greener way.