Pressure mounts on Govt to help industry after ‘catastrophic’ France ban

French Alps
By Lisa James
17/12/2021
Home » Pressure mounts on Govt to help industry after ‘catastrophic’ France ban

Pressure is growing on the UK Government to provide financial support for the travel industry following yesterday’s announcement that holidaymakers from the UK won’t be allowed into France from tomorrow.

AITO described the move as ‘devastating’ while audit and consultancy firm RSM said it could prove ‘catastrophic’.

ABTA has called for a meeting with the Chancellor and Transport Secretary, while TARGET fears agents will be hit with a ‘triple whammy’ in January.

TARGET is urging the trade to take part in a Twitterstorm at lunchtime, while many agents have already tweeting Rishi Sunak to express anger that he’s ignoring travel and focussing on the hospitality industry.

RSM Head of Travel and Tourism Ian Bell said: “It’s unclear how specialist ski operators will be able to cope with yet another ski season hit with restrictions if measures continue into the New Year.

“With over 13 million skiers visiting the top ten resorts in France each season and UK skiers making up nine per cent of all skiers to French resorts, the impact of these restrictions could be catastrophic for the UK travel sector.

“This could also be the tip of the iceberg if other countries follow suit and put tighter restrictions on travel to and from the UK.”

He added: “Crunch point for some operators will be the end of March when they need demonstrate viability to renew ATOL licenses, and sadly many won’t be able to do this.

“Many businesses will hit breaking point. This could lead to a wave of business distress across the sector at the end of Q1 next year.

“The real fear is a prominent travel brand entering administration and the repercussions of this across the wider sector on business closures, high unemployment and longer-term pressure on international connectivity at a time when the UK wants to be more outward focused following Brexit.

“What is desperately needed is acknowledgement from the UK Government of the knock-on effect that policy changes are having on the travel sector and a suite of tailored measures from covering the cost of testing to industry specific grants to support travel businesses now. This will allow them the opportunity to survive long enough to bounce back once measures are lifted.”

AITO Chairman Chris Rowles called yesterday’s announcement a ‘tit for tat Brexit related rebuffal’, saying the rules make no sense as they don’t apply to French and EU nationals, residents in France or British HGV and van drivers.

“It is a simply devastating situation for the UK’s travel industry, destroying both long-planned Christmas holidays and the many ski businesses which operate in French ski resorts. 

“Pent-up demand from UK-based skiers unable to travel last winter has meant that bookings were at higher-than-normal levels this Christmas/New Year, to add insult to injury.

“Now operators are having to contact thousands of would-be skiers/other UK holidaymakers to explain that travel for holiday purposes, regardless of vaccination status, is not considered an ‘essential reason’ for travel by the French Government and is therefore banned with effect from this Saturday, 18 December.

He added: “The likely impact on the main booking period in January will be devastating for all operators across the board; they all desperately need business in 2022 after suffering nearly two years of a serious booking drought, but this latest news is likely to affect consumer confidence badly.  We urgently need the UK Government to provide the travel industry with financial assistance in the light of this ruinous situation.  

“AITO therefore calls upon the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer urgently to work out a rescue package for this badly beaten-up industry.

“We seem to be the sector that no-one cares about. Please put that right at long last and keep travel companies afloat until we turn the COVID corner and can again trade consistently and earn our own living.

“Reports indicate that the Treasury has hinted at a further business support package if pubs, bars and restaurants are ordered to close. Why does the travel sector not merit such immediate attention when it is similarly imperilled?”

See the latest FCDO advice here.

See also: Ski operators cancel holidays to France

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