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Quarantine shatters confidence

The government must bring in specific measures of support for the travel industry, ABTA has said.

ABTA is urging the government to move to regionalised quarantine and introduce testing to restore confidence in travel, as new figures reveal four in five people are concerned about having to quarantine when they return from holiday to the UK.

The findings also show that, when it comes to going on holiday currently, 93 per cent of people are concerned about potential last-minute changes to foreign office travel advice.

ABTA says the research demonstrates that the current approach to foreign travel advice and quarantine measures has shattered people’s confidence in travelling abroad. It leaves viable travel businesses – including the thousands of travel agents up and down the country – unable to generate income. As part of the Save Future Travel Coalition, ABTA has written to the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Transport on the urgent need for specific measures to support the travel sector.

While the Government has heard the industry’s call for ongoing salary support, many travel businesses will undoubtedly be left behind by the structure of the Job Support Scheme. With people not travelling, travel companies are not generating cash and they cannot afford to pay a minimum of 55 per cent of salaries to retain jobs at this time. The situation is particularly stark for travel agents, who earn commission paid on the departure of their customers, with many of these businesses looking at experiencing a full year without significant revenues ahead of the travel period at Easter 2021.

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ABTA’s recent Member survey showed that over 90,000 jobs across the wider travel sector are already lost or at risk, and 65 per cent of travel agents and tour operators have made redundancies as the furlough scheme wound down. In August, only 28% of previously furloughed staff had returned to work, and nearly 80% of businesses that had not yet let staff go anticipated having to do so in the coming months. The new job scheme does little to avoid this outcome.

For businesses to be able to survive the travel market needs to open-up again. Other countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, already operate fully regionalised approaches to their own quarantine regimes, including for mainland areas, and many countries have introduced testing to reopen travel to a greater number of destinations.

Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA, said: “The travel industry was the first to be affected by the coronavirus crisis and will be the last to recover. What travel businesses need more than anything is for people to feel confident enough to travel again, and policy decisions taken by Government to manage the pandemic have served as a straitjacket to travel.

“The chopping and changing of quarantine measures and travel advice means what went back on sale one week is taken off again the next. This, coupled with an increasing number of local lockdowns in the UK, is creating extremely difficult market conditions for travel businesses, with travel agents particularly hurting.

“While we recognise that the Government is attempting to offer some ongoing salary support through the new Job Support Scheme, in reality, it offers little help for travel businesses as they aren’t able to generate the revenue needed to cover the cost to employers.

“Without action from the Government, we are going to see businesses that would be perfectly viable if Government were to ease restrictions on travel closing their doors, and thousands of jobs will be lost. Addressing these issues, while maintaining health precautions, must now be a priority for Ministers.”

In ordinary times, the UK’s travel industry supports over 100 million trips annually (inbound and outbound), with an economic contribution of more than £60bn, and employing close to 1m people