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Tour operators despair at Portugal announcement

AITO,The Specialist Travel Association


AITO operators and agents alike despair – why, when we are so well vaccinated in the UK, can’twe travel again if we follow all the common-sense rules?

AITO Chairman Chris Rowles says: “Nothing makes sense,unfortunately.

“Changing Portugal fromgreen to amber at short notice – despite telling us that more notice would begiven – is not going to encourage consumer confidence, and it will bring thetiny number of bookings that have been coming in daily to a juddering halt. It will also create even more confusion and ademand for refunds, which customers will not be entitled to should they declineto travel.

“We know the vaccine isworking – even against the Delta variant (previously called the Indian variant),which the Government so cavalierly allowed to enter the UK by permitting flightsfrom India to continue freely despite the obvious risks involved.

“Now we have to listento Matt Hancock stating today from the G7 Health Summit, as if butter wouldn’tmelt in his mouth, that: ‘We have got to make sure we keep this countrysafe…’. Words fail us.

“We know that thispandemic is not going to go away in the near future – that we will have tocontinue to follow the “hands, face, space” mantra for the foreseeable future.

“So, if no travel businesses are going to be allowed to trade this summer, after 15 months of zero income/considerable cash outflow, there is now one key thing that the Government needs to deliver to tour operators, travel agents and others at the travel coal face – the long-overdue sector-specific support that Government has squirmed out of delivering to date, despite (a) our very obviousplight and (b) its own statisticians at the Office for National Statisticsstating travel to be the worst-affected service sector of all UK industries…

“Our message is crystal clear – pay up, Prime Minister, Chancellor and fellow Ministers,without delay. Tour operators and travelagents need significant sector-specific payments, and we need themquickly. You have ignored our considerableproblems to date (although the Aviation Minister very recently managed to find £67M for the aviationsector - but travel is much more than just aviation). You know that furloughing staff is impossible for many travel companies due to the amount of changes, cancellations and deferrals involved, which earn us no money whatsoever, but which cost us dear in terms of paying staff and other office-related costs.

“The solution is simple: Significant cash directed,urgently, straight to tour operators, travel agents and others in the dark hole that is currently the formerly vibrant travel industry. I repeat: significant sector-specific payments are vital, and speed is of the essence. Ignoring us, as Government has done to date, in the apparent hope that we would go away, is not going to work.

“Ignoring the considerable financial input to the UK’s economy delivered by the outbound travel industry**(see below) is plain stupid – a real own goal by Government. Interestingly, however, two Government departments – the DfT and theFCDO – seem to disagree on Portugal. TheDfT has moved Portugal to the amber list, while the FCDO still sees Portugal asa safe destination to which to travel – but both departments must, surely, be working from exactly the same data…?”

Ends/3rdJune, 2021

**The Financials – what outbound travel delivers to the UK economy:

-Outbound travel supports employment of circa 526,000 people; inbound travelemploys circa 450,000;

that is nearly 1M people who may lose their jobs and who will require financial assistance, when formerly they will have paid the Government a lot of income-related tax and VAT on purchases.

-Outbound travel enables the inbound travel industry, via its flight routes, to bring in a spend of

£29 billion pa; inbound travellers spend far more than UK stay cationers do;

-Outbound customers spend £37 billion pa in the UK in retail purchases prior to travel.

-Outbound tour operators and travel agents also normally pay a hefty amount of tax to the Exchequer.

Issued on behalf of AITO,The Specialist Travel Association (www.aito.com), which represents over 200 specialist tour operators and travel agents, by Travel PR (s.ockwell@travelpr.co.uk, 07831 126 356; j.franklin@travelpr.co.uk, 07779 336 158).

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