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Published on Monday, March 22, 2021

AITO slams ill-advised comments on 'risky' overseas travel






AITO members reported a 'dramatic slowdown' in bookings since the weekend after a flurry of pessimistic comments from various government officials about the return of overseas leisure travel.


"We've had MPs from both sides of the House, the Defence Minister, and an academic from Warwick University all expressing their views before the important Global Task Force assesses the situation fully and makes its considered announcement on 12 April," said AITO chairman Chris Rowles.


These hasty comments are breeding uncertainty, Rowles says.


"They are all jumping the gun."


Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said he believes it is 'premature' to book holidays yet, following comments by government advisor Dr Mike Tildesley, who said summer trips will be 'unlikely' due to the risk of bringing variants back to the UK.


"The travel industry deserves better, quite honestly.  We've fought now for 13 months, without respite, to keep our heads above water, refunding our clients often from our own pockets, without any sector-specific support, despite the Government's Office of National Statistics declaring travel to be the worst-affected sector of all," Rowles added.


AITO wrote a strongly worded letter to Dr Tildesley, explaining 'reservations fell to almost zero' following his widely reported comments.


It asks Dr Tildesley not to make any more 'contentious public comments' and leave public communications to the Global Task Force.


AITO members saw booking volumes collapse just as confidence was returning with the huge success of the UK's vaccination programme.


Rowles said:  "It seems to have been overlooked that 17 May, the earliest date for international travel to restart, is more than two months away. Destinations are working hard to ensure that visitors and locals alike will be safe when travel recommences."


"All we ask is for some common sense to be used.  Let's wait until the Global Task Force has assessed the situation fully and properly, in three weeks' time."


AITO is an alliance of over 200 specialist tour operators and travel agents


"Our suppliers - the airlines and accommodation providers - need to know that bookings are in the pipeline to give them the confidence to put on flights and to open hotels and other accommodation."

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