TARGET, the new agent campaign group, is asking all its 700 members to write to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps demanding immediate action before more jobs are lost and more companies are forced to close.
TARGET founders Jill Waite of Pole Travel, Manchester and Graeme Brett of Westoe Travel, South Shields, say it’s in the Government’s interest to keep travel going.
The template letter says: “As an industry we are saddened that you, as Secretary of State for Transport, have little understanding of how we work. We have seen the support given to hospitality and personal care, and we need the same for travel.
“Since March 2020 travel agents have had no revenue at all, and we have individually made hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of refunds.
“We make our revenue by earning commission on holidays sold, and when we make a refund our commission has to be refunded. We have no new revenue to replace this, due to the restrictions on travelling, and have had to rely on grants and bounce back loans to survive.
“Many agents are limited companies, or homeworkers, that have fallen through the gaps of personal support from the government. We eagerly awaited the new ‘traffic light’ system, hoping it would bring clarification and enable people to recommence travelling, with confidence.
“The reality is that we are more confused than ever – with no clarification of the testing regime, and most of the countries on the green list either inaccessible, or not allowing entry to UK citizens. This list was obviously designed to allow as little travel as possible, whilst giving the illusion that travel could start.
“We do understand that travel may not be able to start safely. We are not demanding this. But we are asking for sector specific support to get us to a point where our businesses are viable once again.
“There are over 3,000 travel agents in the UK – employing over 20,000 people. If we do not receive some sector specific support there is a very real prospect that most of these people will become unemployed. If travel companies go bust it will inevitably be the Government’s responsibility to refund consumers through the ATOL scheme, so it is in the governments interest to offer us support to keep trading until travel is viable once more.”
TARGET (Travel Agent Reform Group Engaged Together) was set up last week, with 300 original members, attracting 400 more since launch.