We warned you but you didn’t listen, ABTA tells Government

By Linsey McNeill
Home » We warned you but you didn’t listen, ABTA tells Government

ABTA’s Chief Executive Mark Tanzer has hit back at Government ministers who this week blamed the travel industry for delays and cancellations over the half-term holiday.

He said the return to international travel ‘was never going to happen without challenge’ after two years of heavy restrictions and ‘minimal levels of financial support’.

While the ‘vast majority’ of people have got away on their half-term holidays, Mark admitted it was ‘disappointing’ for those who’ve been caught up in delays and cancellations.

But he said ABTA was ‘dismayed’ at ministerial comments blaming the industry for the mayhem being experienced by some customers. Airlines and operators say post-pandemic ‘operational issues’, including lack of airport staff, are the cause of the delays and cancellations.

Today, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said waded into the fray, blaming airlines and operators for selling more holidays than they can fulfill.

And Deputy PM Dominic Raab told Sky News: “There has clearly been a lack of preparation for that surge back of demand of holidaymakers.

“Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, has been talking to the industry for months now, saying that this would come and they need to make sure you have got your recruitment in place.

“I don’t think the airline operators have done the recruitment that they should have done and taken the advice that the Transport Secretary gave them.”

In response, Mark said: “The comments from the Government this week are deeply frustrating and do not correlate with the events of the last two years.

“ABTA, along with the rest of the industry, warned the Government time and time again that thousands of jobs would be lost, and the industry’s recovery would be delayed if the Government did not provide sector-specific support for the travel industry. 

“The lack of recognition from Government that it was only March this year when all UK travel restrictions had been lifted, despite furlough being reduced from July 2021 and then removed altogether in September, is particularly disappointing.”

He said ABTA has been in touch with the Government to ‘share our dismay with ministerial comments’ and to urge officials to look to reduce red tape in the recruitment process to help the industry.

“It is welcome the Transport Secretary has committed to engagement with the industry and it is vitally important that any conversations involve the wider travel industry alongside airports and airlines,” he added.

Govt is ‘throwing the industry under the bus’

Advantage CEO Julia Lo Bue-Said said the past few days of newspaper headlines highlighting ‘travel chaos’ have made her more certain of the need to form an outbound travel forum to stick up for the industry.

She said recent comments by ministers were ‘ill-educated’ and showed a ‘lack of understanding about the state of our industry post-COVID, throwing the industry under the bus essentially’.

She added: “There probably isn’t one single travel agent or tour operator in the UK that is not up to their eyes at the moment not having to deal with irate customers who have had their long-awaited holiday cancelled.

“But, thankfully, those customers are being looked after – what about the impact to our own people working in our sector and those business owners who are putting in all this extra work for no further financial reward?

“We will of course rise to the challenge – we always do – but it will require everyone to work together ensuring we can speak with authority as an UK outbound travel sector.

“We must take responsibility for the perception of our industry in government and why others are treated better than us. 

“That’s why I fundamentally believe that the formation of an Outbound Travel Forum that represents the entire industry is an absolute necessity, if we are to change this for the better ahead of further inevitable future problems.”

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