ABTA is calling on the Government to ditch testing for double-vaccinated holidaymakers and to scrap the traffic light system for travel.
It revealed that new research among members shows that new summer holiday bookings for 2021 are down 83% on 2019 and that seven in 10 travel companies plan to make redundancies when the furlough scheme ends, pushing the number of estimated job losses in the outbound travel industry up to more than 100,000.
Almost half of travel companies said they hadn’t seen any increase in 2021 bookings compared to last year, despite the rollout of the vaccine programme.
And they said 58% of departures in July or August this year were postponed or cancelled.
With the Government due to review restrictions on international travel by 1 October and the furlough scheme due to end this month, ABTA has written to the Transport Secretary and the Chancellor, claiming the the traffic light system has acted as brake on the sector and failed to deliver the conditions necessary for recovery.
It has also outlined the changes needed from October’s review to get people travelling again, as well as repeating calls for tailored financial support ‘to recognise the unique challenges travel has faced and help businesses through the ongoing crisis’.
ABTA says the Government should scrap the traffic light system, allowing travel to all destinations except those few with known variants of concern and end testing for fully vaccinated travellers on their return to the UK from lower-risk countries.
ABTA Chief Executive Mark Tanzer said: “The Government’s travel requirements have choked off this summer’s travel trade – putting jobs, businesses and the UK’s connectivity at risk.
“While our European neighbours have been travelling freely and safely, the British were subject to expensive measures which have stood in the way of people visiting family and friends, taking that much-needed foreign holiday and making important business connections.
“The Government needs to wake up to the damage its policies are doing to the UK travel industry and the impact they will have on the wider economic recovery. It is the fares from leisure passengers that keep our planes flying and routes open – a diminished holiday industry is a diminished aviation industry with fewer routes and fewer flights. That’s not how you achieve a global Britain.
“The Government must use October’s strategic review to open up safe travel by putting the individual risk profiles at the heart of UK travel policy – capitalising on the vaccine rollout and maintaining a red list for managing known variants of concern. There is no logical explanation as to why people who are fully vaccinated should be taking expensive PCR tests – or any test at all – when returning from lower risk countries. This widespread use of PCR tests needs to stop.
“The dire summer season also means the need for a package of tailored financial support – extending the furlough scheme for travel businesses and a dedicated grant fund – remains paramount. The Chancellor has dismissed the extension of furlough as being too ‘challenging’ – that’s not good enough and a way must be found. No matter how many times Government may try to claim it has supported travel businesses, there has not been a penny of tailored support for travel agents or tour operators, with many missing out on essential funding.”