//Industry reacts to lockdown delay
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Industry reacts to lockdown delay

Urgent rethink needed over financial support for businesses, says ABTA

The travel industry has reacted with concern to the prime minister’s announcement that the easing of lockdown restrictions will be delayed by four weeks.

Boris Johnson said the link between hospitalisation and cases has been “weakened” but not “severed” and that there was a possibility of “thousands more deaths” unless we “wait just a little longer”.

“I am confident we will not need any more than four weeks and we won’t need to go beyond July 19,” he said, announcing the delay to the fourth and final stage of easing.

However, despite the impact on business, the government said it would not further extend furlough and other financial support.

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Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA, said: “The delay to the full reopening of the domestic economy, which follows on from the government’s recent moves to severely restrict international travel, highlights again the importance of a rethink around ongoing financial support for businesses that continue to find their trade severely constrained by government policy.

“The government must look at extending the existing support measures for businesses, including delaying the increase in furlough contributions, extending protections from commercial landlords, and keeping full business rates relief, which are due at the end of this month.

“When it comes to travel businesses, ministers need to acknowledge that even once the domestic economy unlocks, they will continue to be under constraints within the traffic-light system. As we head into the critical summer season, where travel companies ordinarily earn the majority of their income, we must finally see a package of tailored financial support for travel agents and tour operators. Without this tailored support, we will continue to witness people across the country lose their businesses, many of which are independent family firms that have been in existence for decades, and many thousands more people will lose their jobs.”

Joss Croft, CEO, UKinbound said “Tourism businesses across the UK are balanced on a knife edge, struggling to remain viable while adhering to restrictions, and today’s announcement will put people’s livelihoods at risk and slow down the recovery of our towns and cities. Prolonging restrictions affects the whole tourism supply chain, in addition to hospitality business, and although health and safety must always come first, the government must act swiftly and implement additional support measures for both hospitality and travel businesses.”

Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO The Advantage Travel Partnership, said: “This delay for domestic recovery is a further blow to many businesses in the UK, not least the travel industry. For 15 months the travel industry has  been unable to trade its way to recovery due to border closers, legal barriers and a woefully short green list. A complete lack of government support means that many businesses are now fighting to keep the lights on. We urge government to ensure that whilst this domestic delay is implemented they must still allow for international travel to return safely and in a risk managed way by properly implementing the Global Travel Taskforce’s plan for a traffic-light system.

“The green list must be expanded in the next review on June 24 in line with the evidence, and with more proportionate restrictions. The government must also bring forward a package of tailored financial support for travel businesses, including extension of furlough support, to account for the  sector’s ability to trade and generate income being much slower than almost all other sectors. The Travel Day of Action on June 23 is when the industry will come together to make these demands directly to MPs and we urge our friends in the industry to get behind this essential lobbying event for the survival of an industry on its knees.”

As part of the announcement, Johnson said that the limit of 30 people at weddings and funerals will be lifted, with capacity instead dictated by the number of people a venue can hold while maintaining social distancing.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “A final lifting of restrictions is the only way to save the hospitality sector from disaster and enable it to play its part in a national economic recovery, to support the government’s Jobs Plan, delivering jobs, growth and investment at pace and across all the regions. A single ray of light is that the limit on weddings will be lifted but support must be granted and, crucially, delivered, to the vast majority of other hospitality businesses. Not least, it must reach those who are still unable to trade at all, including  nightclubs and those who still cannot operate their main income streams, such as soft play centres, as well as businesses such as contract catering, who operate from other businesses venues and so have been unable to access many reliefs and grants.

“Businesses need a swift, publicly-stated commitment that such support will be in place in the event of any delays, giving them much-needed reassurance after more than 15 months of closure and severely disrupted trading. Hospitality is desperate to get back to what it does best and can play a key role in the economic recovery of the UK – but only once it is given permission to trade freely. The Prime Minister asked for one more heave to get us out of restrictions – hospitality, too, requires one last heave, to be able to drive recovery.”