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Published on Saturday, October 10, 2020

Outrage at Chancellor's expanded Job Support Scheme

The travel industry is united in its disdain of the Chancellor's expanded Job Support Scheme, saying it has been all but 'abandoned'.

The government announced yesterday that it will pay two-thirds of salaries and offer business grants only to businesses that are legally forced to close as a direct result of coronavirus restrictions.

Firms in England that are required to shut under localised lockdown measures will be able to claim grants of up to £3,000 a month, which should benefit companies in the hospitality sector such as pubs and restaurants.

However, businesses that are not required to close by law will not be eligible for the extension to the Job Support Scheme when it comes into force from November 1.

Chris Rowles, chairman of the Association of Independent Tour Operators, said: "Travel hasn't been 'forced legally to close', it's been abandoned and left high and dry. The plight of the aviation industry is often mentioned, but tour operators and travel agents seem to have been forgotten, despite the best efforts of the travel trade associations, including AITO."

Rowles said the UK government has 'closed a virtual door in our faces' with the short-notice quarantine rules and given the public no confidence to travel.

"Many of our members have carried just 5% of their normal client numbers this year, with little to no peak season business (the only time of the year when we normally make money to keep us going through winter).  At the same time, they have been faced with blanket refunds clearing out their bank accounts while having to struggle to keep staff on - unfurloughed - to be able to handle the huge number of enquiries and refunds in a responsible manner.

"We are seen as expendable - yet we delivered huge sums in tax to UK PLC's bottom line pre-Covid, and employed huge numbers of people in a formerly vibrant industry. It is, quite simply, soul-destroying - and the government is guaranteeing that huge numbers of travel industry people will be on the dole, needing massive government support, as a direct result of its policy to ignore the travel industry's pleas for financial help.

Rowles reiterated his calls for a travel trade minister 'with clout' and called on the Civil Aviation Authority to endorse Refund Credit Notes offering financial protection post September 30.

"Rishi Sunak - talk to us!  Come and meet AITO, ABTA and the huge number of travel organisations who need your ear right now. 

"We need the Exchequer's ear and your understanding, and we need action and financial aid for the travel industry immediately."

ABTA warned of further job losses and called on the government to 'act fast' to help struggling travel businesses and their staff.

Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive of ABTA, said: "The Chancellor's announcement of an expanded version of the Job Support Scheme to support businesses required to close due to local lockdowns does little for the UK's £60bn travel industry, or the close to one million people who work in the sector.

"For almost eight months the travel industry has been hampered by the Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office's global advisory against all but essential travel, ever-changing quarantine rules and the failure of the government to introduce a testing regime which would help to reopen many destinations.

"The announcement of a Global Travel Taskforce this week is recognition of the difficulties facing businesses across the travel industry. However, we cannot afford to wait weeks for additional help. It is vital that the Government acts fast to help struggling travel businesses, and their staff. Without additional support we will see further job losses in travel over the weeks ahead, in addition to the more than 100,000 roles that have already been lost or at risk as a result of the crisis."

Taking to social media, Miles Morgan, chairman of regional miniple Miles Morgan Travel, said: "You know the travel sector has been virtually closed since March and is hurting even more than hospitality. Why no support for the travel sector at all? Please come clean and explain why?"

Joss Croft, CEO, UKinbound said: "Once again the Chancellor has ignored the fact that inbound tourism businesses, that deliver £28 billion in export earnings for the UK every year, are on their knees, unable to fund viable jobs as they've been excluded from virtually all government support channels since March. Government has already stopped businesses trading due to measures such as quarantine and previous lockdowns, and it therefore needs to compensate all affected companies, not just those facing these new measures or with an obvious shop front."

By Louise Longman, Contributing Editor (UK)


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