Coronavirus: UK travel industry calls for urgent government action

Saleha Riaz
Planes on the apron at London City Airport which has been closed after the discovery of an unexploded Second World War bomb.
Planes at London City Airport. Photo: PA

UK travel group ABTA said the government is not doing enough to support the sector, which has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.

It criticised the government for “ever-changing quarantine rules and a dwindling number of destinations for holidaymakers to visit,” and demanded tailored support, including further grants.

ABTA said it is “vital that the Global Travel Taskforce launched this month to consider a testing regime, and other measures to support recovery of the travel industry, acts decisively and urgently to help increase consumer confidence and get the industry moving again.”

The taskforce was set up by the government and is meant to report to prime minister Boris Johnson no later than early November, setting out recommendations for how the UK can support the recovery of international travel.

According to new figures released by ABTA, 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.

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More than half (53%) of the people surveyed 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.

Government restrictions were a contributing factor to a hesitation to travel, with 93% of people concerned about potential last-minute changes to foreign office travel advice and four in five people (80%) concerned about having to quarantine when they return to the UK.

The findings are from research based on a sample of 2,000 consumers and related to holiday booking habits in the 12 months to July 2020.

Meanwhile, figures also revealed that more than half of people (52%) believe that the travel industry should reopen in a greener way.

A new report by ABTA identified the sustainability challenges faced by the industry, including the need to accelerate decarbonisation and to ensure that tourism generates greater benefits for destinations and local communities.

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Mark Tanzer, ABTA’s CEO said: “There is no doubt that people’s confidence and trust in the industry has taken a huge hit — and we must work hard to earn that trust back. Not only is that by being creative and flexible in terms of the holiday and customer experience we offer, but also by making sustainability a fundamental principle of travel.”

Earlier this week a survey was reported to show that nearly two-thirds (64%) of business leaders see domestic and international travel as “key to their future prospects.”

The research, commissioned by London City Airport, also indicated that 48% believe the government’s quarantine restrictions are the biggest barrier to business air travel.

In other news showing the toll the pandemic has taken on the travel industry, British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz has quit the top job with immediate effect, to be replaced by Aer Lingus boss Sean Doyle.

BA and Aer Lingus owner International Airlines Group (IAG.L) head Luis Gallego said the decision came as the company faced “the worst crisis in our industry.”

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