Published on Wednesday, April 12, 2017
The travel industry has hit back at Michael Gove after he referred to travel companies as 'tourism sharks' in the row over school holiday price hikes.
In a column for The Times, the former education secretary heavily criticised the industry and called for regulation to stop companies raising prices during peak periods.
He made the comments after last week's Supreme Court ruling against father Jon Platt that upheld fines by local councils if children take term-time holidays.
ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer has now written a letter to the newspaper defending the industry.
It explains: "The reason that prices are so much higher in the summer months is due to high demand. It is not just British holidaymakers who want to travel at this time but many of our European neighbours also choose to holiday in July and August when good weather is virtually guaranteed.
"In low season many hotels, airlines and other sections of the industry have to discount prices to encourage people to travel."
Instead, ABTA said its members have long advocated that the dates of school holidays should be staggered by region in a coordinated way.
"This system has worked well in other countries, such as France and Germany, and has helped to alleviate some of the sharp peaks in pricing, expand the travel window and ease the pressure on family budgets," the letter said.
AITO chairman Derek Moore said Gove's comments were a classic example of someone who is 'opening their mouth and speaking without knowing anything about the industry they're discussing'.
"He clearly doesn't understand how the industry works and is taking two and two and getting five," he said.
Moore argued that regulating prices was 'unrealistic, unworkable, and commercial suicide'.
"It's all very well saying tour operator prices should be regulated, but tell that to the Greek hoteliers who can sell their rooms to anyone in July and August at higher prices," he said.
"It's not a case of putting up holiday prices in the summer, it's a case of having to discount at the beginning and end of the season in order to sell them.
"There might be some tour operators who will milk it a little bit, but the vast majority - and certainly AITO members - do not profit unreasonably."
He suggested that travel companies perhaps need to do more to educate the public about the way their businesses work and pointed to other industry, such as florists, who also adjust their prices according to demand.
"I'm sure if Mr Gove bought flowers for the good Mrs Gove on 15th February he'd get them a lot cheaper than on the 14th."
An ABTA spokesman said the association has been working hard to explain and justify school holiday price rises to politicians and the public.
"We have made this point over the years in literally hundreds of radio and TV interviews and we will continue to do so," he said.
"We also stress the need to book early and the efforts the industry does to help families such as free child places and discounted prices for children.
"More recently we did a substantial amount of work with politicians prior to a debate in parliament following a petition calling for school holiday prices to be regulated. MPs were properly briefed and concluded that the issue was simply one of supply and demand."
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