In his opening speech at the ABTA Travel Convention 2021, ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer called for a dedicated government minister to guide the travel industry through the next phase of the pandemic.
Tanzer spoke of the significant hurdles that the travel industry has faced since ABTA’s first convention in Abu Dhabi in 2016, from the collapse of Monarch and Thomas Cook to Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although he called it ‘a lot to absorb’, he spoke with optimism about the resilience of the travel industry throughout recent upheaval.
“If anything has tested the resilience of the travel industry it has been the last 18 months, where international travel has been forced into a mini Ice Age,” he said.
“Two summers and one and a half winters have been written off, and only now are we starting to see the thaw. It’s too early to speak of recovery, and I’m acutely aware of how many of our members are still perilously close to the cliff edge. But there are signs that the darkest clouds may be breaking up.”
Tanzer went on to speak of the UK government’s role in the industry’s recovery.
“ABTA has been strongly critical of the Government through the pandemic, for its failure to understand and support an industry that its own data show to have been the longest and hardest hit, and when it’s clear that international travel is on a much shallower recovery trajectory to other sectors, such as UK retail, or UK hospitality,” he said.
“We desperately needed to see the restrictions and testing requirements eased, and we’re glad that the Government has finally responded to our calls.
“But the job is not yet done – we still need to think of how unvaccinated passengers can be freed to travel, how we can ease the red tape around entering the UK, and how we can harmonise vaccine certification across the world. And, as I said, our members are still starved of cash. Despite the more positive outlook, it will take time for travel to get fully back on its feet. We urgently need the Chancellor to extend business support measures, which will for some members will mean the difference between survival and failure.
“I’ve said previously that the UK’s outbound travel sector – which accounts for a quarter of a million jobs directly, and the same number again in its extended supply chain – feels like a political orphan – dealing and pleading with a host of government departments, none of which see outbound travel as their primary concern, or their special responsibility.
“This challenge has always dogged our industry, and the pandemic has thrown the problem into sharp relief. I repeat the call on Government to give one of its ministers dedicated responsibility for outbound travel, whose issues immediately impact not only thousands of jobs across the country, but the happiness and health of tens of millions of British tourists.”