Outrigger Hotels and Resorts

Published on Thursday, November 12, 2020

Travel corridors saved only one in 10 holidays, says ABTA


Nine out of 10 holidays were cancelled or changed in July and August despite the opening of travel corridors, according to ABTA.

As a result of travel restrictions and lockdown measures, its members expect to end the year 93% down on 2019.

It said a new survey of ABTA members carried out at the end of October revealed that a third of businesses haven't resumed operations at all since the UK-wide lockdown earlier in the year.

As a result of the travel restrictions, ABTA estimated that redundancies have almost doubled in the past three months with 164,000 people losing their jobs or facing the risk of being laid off, up from 90,000 in August.

The Association has renewed its calls for tailored support for the industry from the government and for measures to ensure 'a swift return to travel' and boost consumer confidence after the latest lockdown has lifted.

While it said the news of a possible Covid-19 vaccine will go some way to restoring consumer confidence in booking future trips, travel businesses need help now.

While other sectors such as hospitality, culture and the arts, have received specific support from the government, travel businesses have not.

In a statement, ABTA said: "Under government measures sectors like school travel and cruise are closed altogether, while others are barely able to operate as the destinations which were open through travel corridors have only been so for short periods of time due to last-minute policy changes. Some sectors, such as winter sports and long-haul travel, have no open destinations."


Signs of recovery?

However, ABTA said there were signs of a recovery. Bookings for summer 2021 are 45% of the level normally expected at this time of year which is an improvement on near-term bookings.

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.

"But there is demand for travel and we are starting to see people booking for summer 2021 - demonstrating the importance of travel and resilience of the market. This will no doubt be boosted by the news of a vaccine, but we must remember that a robust vaccine programme is many months away and the industry is struggling now.

"It is short-sighted of the government to overlook the industry as travel is fundamental to the UK's economic recovery. Our members' customers pay the airfares which fund the passenger planes and routes - underpinning the UK's connectivity and imports and exports.

"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. Without action the Government risks jeopardising the speed to which the UK's economy can come back from the pandemic."

ABTA is calling on the government to:


  • Provide tailored financial support for travel businesses, including renewed grant support for SMEs and those who were excluded from previous support measures, as well as salary support which is flexible enough to allow staff to process refunds whilst in receipt of support
  • Introduce a testing regime without delay and lead international coordination of testing with the aim of removing quarantine. Opening more destinations to the UK traveller and reducing quarantine to as short as possible for arrivals and returns to the UK.
  • Fully regionalise the UK's quarantine policy and approach to FCDO Foreign Travel Advice. This would mirror the approach already adopted domestically and in other countries such as Germany and the Netherlands, allowing a more targeted assessment of risk and the reopening of important trading routes with partners such as the US.

Consumer body calls for Travel Guarantee Fund
Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, repeated his call for more support for the travel indusry in the form of a Travel Guarantee Fund.
"Which? has been calling for tailored support for the travel industry since the start of the pandemic. Many firms that would ordinarily be in good financial health have been left on the brink of bankruptcy, while others have instead broken the law in order to try and stay afloat - forcing customers to bail them out by illegally withholding refunds," he said.
"With England's second lockdown likely to affect many more winter holidays, there is a real risk that thousands more people will be left out of pocket and struggling to get their money back. 
"To prevent this, the government must step in with support for holiday operators in the form of a Travel Guarantee Fund, to ensure they can process refunds swiftly without risking going under. Airlines must also play their part in returning money to tour operators quickly - so the aviation regulator must be given the powers to take a tougher line with those that fail to do so."  


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