The travel trade has expressed disbelief after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps implied travel agents were a thing of the past during Friday’s Downing Street briefing.
Answering a question about the 12 countries and territories that have been put on the green list, Mr Shapps referred to ‘travel companies…what people would have called travel agents, perhaps, in the past’.
The comment has upset members of the trade, who took to social media to say it was further proof the Government does not understand the travel industry.
Miles Morgan Travel Chairman Miles Morgan asked if Mr Shapps was being ‘deliberately thick’.
Mr Morgan tweeted: “If I could ask one question to @grantshapps, it would be: Were you being deliberately thick at the Downing Street briefing or do you still not understand the travel industry? ‘What people have called travel agents in the past’ – are you for real, Mr Shapps?”
Kuoni CEO Derek Jones tweeted: “Did he really say, ‘… what used to be known as travel agents’?! Why can’t he grasp how the industry works?”
Advantage Travel Partnership Chief Executive Julia Lo-Bue Said tweeted: “I am still holding my head in my hands over this. Travel agents are still called travel agents.”
Independent agent and Managing Director of Lusso luxury tour operator James Weaver called it: “Disgraceful contempt for our industry, but not unsurprising based on the last 12 months.”
Carrier MD Mark Duguid said Mr Shapps had dropped ‘an absolute clanger’.
Others described what he said as ‘staggering’, ‘a joke’ and ‘unbelievable’.
Derek Jones also described Mr Shapps’ attempt to explain measures to extend consumer protection – including how they ‘create a little less stress on the travel company’ – as ‘waffle’.
Meanwhile, Mr Shapps’ assertion that: “Travel is absolutely crucial to rebuilding our economy, bringing long-awaited relief to hard-hit airlines, airports, the tourism sector, which taxpayers have spent £7bn in supporting,” also caused derision, with people criticising the Government’s lack of support for the industry.