Some of the biggest names in the travel industry are joining a “day of action” today to urge the Government to open up the travel sector.
Industry body Abta says the Government is “undermining” the traffic light system. There are no viable major tourist destinations on the quarantine-free green list, while the Government has urged people to avoid holidays to locations on the amber list.
Abta estimates that 195,000 travel jobs have been lost or are at risk during the coronavirus pandemic.
It and travel firms across the country will today try to persuade the Government to expand the green list, and remove testing and quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers who are returning from green and amber locations.
Abta also wants a package of tailored financial support for the industry – potentially including extending the furlough scheme until April 2022.
Staff at Manchester Airports Group – which also owns London Stansted and East Midlands Airports – will be sharing pictures on social media to mark every single flight that would have taken off today.
MAG says that today just 124 aircraft will depart its three gateways – 47 from Manchester 47, six from East Midlands 6 and 71 from Stansted. That compared to 651 departures before the pandemic struck – 319 from Manchester, 60 from East Midlands and 272 from London Stansted.
Charlie Cornish, MAG Group CEO, said: “Aviation has been the sector hardest hit by the pandemic, yet government does not seem to appreciate its economic value or trust its own system for the restart of international travel.
“Despite holding back the recovery of an industry that supports more than 1m jobs, and generates billions of pounds of value, there has been nowhere near the level of support offered to other parts of the economy.
“The whole of the travel industry recognises the need to protect public health and has supported every measure government has required in response to Covid-19.
“However, with so much at stake, it is simply unacceptable that government refuses to explain why it is not opening up travel to many popular destinations.
“Together with airlines, we have been left with no option but to challenge the Government’s lack of transparency, and to protest against the stifling of our recovery through this day of action.”
Meanwhile Brittany Ferries has also told BusinessLive that it will be joining the action as it faces a “hammer blow” to its finances.
Derek Jones, boss of luxury travel firm Kuoni, said: “The outbound travel sector has been decimated by this pandemic and by the Government’s haphazard response to it.
“Today, we have joined together to call upon ministers to acknowledge that the restrictions they have placed on international travel are having a deep and devastating impact on travel businesses.
“We are united in one message today: we want to see the safe reopening of international travel alongside targeted financial support for businesses which have not been able to trade for well over a year.”
Clive Wratten, chief executive of the Business Travel Association, said: “Today’s day of action highlights the dire straits of our industry.
“The travel sector remains in lockdown as the rest of the country opens up.
“Business travel is essential for the UK economy and our ability to trade on the international stage.
“The Government must provide targeted support and extend the green list at its next review.”
Yesterday Andrew Flintham, managing director of Tui, claimed Whitehall “does not understand” how the travel sector works.
He told a conference organised by Abta it is “inexplicable” that destinations such as Malta, the Greek islands and the Balearic islands are on the amber list.
Mr Flintham warned that many travel companies are “perilously close to failing”, adding that “every week that goes by just pushes those people closer to that very sad outcome”.