Travel firms have had ‘no chance to recover’ during pandemic

Travel businesses have had “no meaningful chance to recover” after the vast majority of summer holidays were cancelled, an industry body has warned.

Abta claimed Government travel policies have “stood in the way of a recovery” and issued a fresh plea to ministers to provide “tailored support”.

A survey of nearly 200 travel firms carried out in late October – before England’s second national lockdown was announced – indicated that 91% of holidays due to take place in July and August were cancelled or changed due to coronavirus restrictions.

The number of new bookings expected between now and the end of the year is expected to be down 93% on the same period last year, the research suggested.

Abta estimated that the number of jobs lost or placed at risk across the outbound travel sector and related industries since the pandemic began has increased from 90,000 in August to 164,000.

The trade body found that bookings for next year are at 45% of what would have been expected without the pandemic, which “although far behind normal” indicates that “demand for travel remains”.

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “The travel industry has had no meaningful chance to recover. Bookings have largely vanished.

“Cancellations are common as destinations move on and off the travel corridor list, and the Government is yet to deliver a testing framework for industry and customers.

“The results are stark for businesses – job losses mounting at an alarming rate, and viable, longstanding businesses closing their doors for good.

“It is short-sighted of the Government to overlook the industry, as travel is fundamental to the UK’s economic recovery.

“We need the Government to step in and support the industry now – as it has done for other sectors – so

that the industry is ready to support the UK’s wider economic recovery.”

A Government spokeswoman said: “We recognise the challenging times facing the travel sector as a result of Covid-19, which is why we will do everything we can to help this critical industry.

“Protecting jobs is an absolute priority and the extension of the furlough scheme, as well as wider support through action on airport slots, loans and tax deferrals, will help businesses safeguard jobs as we head into winter.

“The Global Travel Taskforce will also continue to work at pace with industry to develop measures to support the industry’s long-term future.”