Published on Friday, April 17, 2020

ABTA and AITO furious after Grant Shapps says he won't be booking a summer holiday

ABTA has issued an angry response to comments made by the UK Government effectively telling Brits not to bother booking a summer holiday this year.

It accused the Government of undermining confidence in the travel industry after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he 'wouldn't be booking a summer holiday at this point, let's put it that way'.

He added: "Clearly people will want to see what the trajectory of this disease is in the next few weeks. We've just started to see a flattening of that tragic curve which shows the deaths each day, where they're bubbling around at the same level, and the number of people going into intensive care, and the rest of it. But we're not seeing the declines yet."

ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer quickly issued a statement saying: "It was a thoughtless comment and not based on any facts about what we know today about the future of the pandemic, but it shows complete disregard for the UK travel industry, the hundreds of thousands of people it employs and the struggle it is facing in this current crisis. It would be better if the Government focused on taking the necessary steps to support the sector rather than undermining confidence in it."

An AITO spokesperson said: "The Minister's ill-considered and flippant comment on Radio 4 this morning shows his total disregard for the travel and holiday sector and the millions working within the industry.

"Mr Shapps owes us not only a retraction, and an apology, but also - very importantly - some long overdue practical assistance, which has been sorely lacking to date."

The Transport Secretary appeared to get support from 10 Downing Street after a spokesman for the Prime Minister who said: "As of today, it is a fact that both the guidelines and the official Foreign Office advice do not allow for people going on holidays."

The Mole says:
While ABTA and AITO were clearly outraged by the comments, many agents admitted the Secretary of State was probably correct in his predictions. Some pointed out that not only will we have to wait until the UK travel restrictions are relaxed, we also have to wait for other countries to relax their entry restrictions. With the UK currently one of the worse affected countries, it seems unlikely our European neighbours will be rushing to let Brits flock back to their hotels and beaches. On the plus side, ABTA's hard-hitting response to the Transport Secretary's comment has now made the headlines in many consumer newspapers, highlighting the industry's plight, so maybe it might finally prompt the UK government to take action to support the sector, and might also make consumers more aware of the impact of the crisis on the hundreds of thousands of people who work in it. We hope.

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