//ABTA criticises Shapps’ ‘travel agent’ comments

ABTA criticises Shapps’ ‘travel agent’ comments

ABTA confirms it is in contact with the Department for Transport

ABTA has responded to Grant Shapps’ comments during his recent press conference in which he intimated that travel agents are a thing of the past.

The transport secretary referred to travel companies as “what people would have called travel agents in the past”.

“These were ill-judged and ill-informed comments, which simply do not align with the facts. Travel agents are very much here and make a vital contribution to both the UK economy and to consumer confidence in travel,” said Mark Tanzer, ABTA’s chief executive.

Tanzer said ABTA had contacted the Department for Transport. “We have highlighted our recent research which shows that more consumers than ever plan to book their next holiday with a travel professional – some 28 per cent more now than before the pandemic – showing the value which the public places on their guidance and expertise,” he added.

Kuoni chief executive Derek Jones said: “Grant Shapps delivered his whole update in that uber-self confident style so beloved of politicians until he started waffling about consumer protection. Did he really say … ‘what used to be known as travel agents?’ Why can’t he grasp how the industry works?”

Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive Julia Lo-Bue Said tweeted: “I am still holding my head in my hands over this. Travel agents are still called travel agents and vouchers are not issued under the Atol scheme, credit note vouchers are – they are different and only protect consumers who book a package holiday (an Atol one).”

Richard Slater of Henbury Travel said: “Travel trade disbelief at Grant Shapps implying that travel agents were a thing of the past. Over 3,000 shops across the UK.”

In addition to dealing with the comments made by the transport secretary, ABTA has also provided detailed feedback on the announcement relating to the green list, including making clear the importance of adding more countries to the list at the next review stage, as well as calling for further work on testing costs and availability. ABTA also used the opportunity to repeat calls for ongoing financial support for travel businesses.

Last week, the government has revealed its green list countries – enabling quarantine-free travel into the UK. Shapps said the move was “necessarily cautious – that the countries we connect with have infection rates that are low and vaccination rates that are high”.

“We want a summer in which we can reunite family and friends, travel to places we love,” he said. “We want to start looking outward again.”

He said that travel is essential to rebuilding the economy, referring to “hard-hit airports and tourism sector.”

You can see full list of countries on the green list here.