The travel industry isn’t going to get any sector-specific financial support from the Government, partly because some companies are giving the impression they don’t need it, Advantage CEO Julia Lo Bue-Said told delegates attending this week’s ITT conference.
Taking part in a panel debate, called Are We Ready For the Return of Travel, she said the Government hasn’t ‘done the right thing’ and should be supporting the travel industry with sector-specific aid, but she added: “They’ve never said they would and they’re not going to.”
When asked by Douglas Wardle of Wardle Travel if the Government was aware that, even though bookings have picked up recently, agents won’t receive any money until next March, Ms Bue-Said replied: “They probably don’t think it’s worth throwing any more money at the sector and to be frank, as an industry, I don’t think we really help ourselves.
“I remember being at some Government meetings at the beginning of the year and we were coming out with headlines like ‘3,000 billion percent up and my company is doing really well and look how great I’m doing over here’. That doesn’t help. That is a complete mix message from the industry to the Government.
“I get that we all want to be positive to the consumer, it’s all about consumer confidence, but there is a real balance.
“I sat on the APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) for The Future of Aviation with ministers and I promise you I had ministers saying ‘we’ve just seen these headlines, you’re okay’, so there’s part of the industry really lobbying and another part of the industry really thinking about themselves, and I get that, we all have shareholders to please.
“I think the Government are aware, they’re not going to put their hands in their pocket and I think they believe that the industry will rebound quickly because there is an appetite for consumers to travel, but in the meantime there are businesses on the brink of survival and not everyone is going to make it.”
Ms Bue-Said insisted that trade bodies were continually lobbying the Government, much of which was taking place ‘behind closed doors’ and couldn’t be ‘openly discussed’, she said.
But she added: “Everyone has a responsibility to make the noises; everyone has an opportunity to do that; the only effective way of really lobbying in the absence of having dedicated ministers is by everyone lobbying their individual MPs.”
Ms Bue-Said also used an earlier speech at the ITT Conference, called Don’t Look Back in Anger, to call on the industry to pull together to gain Government support.
Since the Travel Day of Action, which was attended by more than 50 MPs, she said the industry had been ‘overwhelmed by MP support, consistently speaking up for travel’.
She added: “It is incumbent on all of us as industry leaders to take ownership, we have a role to play, sitting back finger-pointing, hanging our dirty washing in public, can be a huge distraction that we’ve all had to deal with.
“We cannot let this happen again as nothing is contained within the trade. Every time this happens the wider public, the wider media and the Government are looking at us.
“As leaders we have a responsibility to be heard, to raise our heads above the parapet, standing up and talking and taking ownership of the situation. Being heard is not the same as being listened to.”