The travel industry has outlined the issues new prime minister Liz Truss must deliver on as fears over the cost-of-living crisis and the energy price cap grow.
Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer appealed to Truss to detail what will be done and when to support travel businesses as soon as possible.
“As it stands members have no protection from rising bills. They are feeling the impact now, at a time when they are also still trying to recover from the worst two years in the industry’s history,” he said.
“It is particularly important this government takes account of the extreme pressure small and medium sized businesses are under.”
Currently, there’s no price cap on energy rates for businesses, but Tanzer called for one to be introduced as well as extending business rates support and offering more “headroom” with the repayment of loans taken out during the pandemic.
Speaking before Truss was confirmed today (September 5), Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA) president Mike Tibbert said Scottish agents were “bracing themselves” for a “difficult” period ahead.
Tibbert explained how many agents were paying back government bounce back loans at the same time as spiralling energy costs, rent reviews and high cost of business rates.
He warned that if bookings for next year were to slow down then 2023 would be “yet another challenging one” for Scottish agents.
“High street agents are bracing themselves for a difficult period ahead as their own business costs rise,” he said. “Support in the form of rates relief would be one measure which the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association strongly supports.”
The rising cost of living and other issues facing agents across the UK will be discussed at a Future Travel Coalition meeting at Abta’s office on Monday.
Tanzer last week said the cost-of-living cruises was “top of the in-tray” for Truss.
Scottish-based agency Barrhead Travel president Jacqueline Dobson called for the new PM to appoint a minister “who represents the entire travel industry” last month.
“This has been a problem we’ve been up against for the duration of the pandemic – the lack of knowledge in government to understand exactly how the travel industry operates,” she said.
“Having ministerial representation for transport, maritime and aviation is great for those sectors – but the UK travel industry spreads far beyond these areas.”
Dobson also called for the regeneration of high streets and communities. “Typically, retail travel agents form the backbone of communities but I don’t believe we’re seeing enough incentive or investment support for retailers at the moment, particularly against the backdrop of the cost of living crisis,” she added.
She predicted a possible change in customer holiday patterns in the future. “We may well see a shift in customer holiday patterns – for example, giving up an additional short break in favour of longer summer holidays or a rise in demand for all-inclusive or full board basis,” she forecasted. “I do expect that customers will also be very focussed on value-for-money.”
The Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said said she hoped the industry would not “go unnoticed by the new government” due to be appointed in the coming days.
She said: “After a long, tough summer we can now hope the new prime minister starts to get to grips with the colossal tasks in hand.
“The significant importance both economically and socially the travel industry contributes has a ripple effect across many industries and local communities, alongside the many thousands of small businesses who are currently evaluating how to keep the lights on throughout this winter.
“At Advantage, we will continue to raise awareness of the issues facing the industry, and doing all we can to get ourselves heard, whilst supporting our members through what will continue to be very difficult times.”
Clive Wratten, Business Travel Association chief executive, welcomed Truss to the PM role, but warned that the nation was experiencing “a grave time”.
“We urge the prime minister to be innovative in tackling the challenges ahead,” he added. “Work with industries such as travel, transport and hospitality to get Britain thriving again.”
Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality chief executive, said the association was looking forward to working closely with Truss and the cabinet that she assembles.
She urged Truss to reduce VAT to 12.5%, offer a business rates holiday, defer all green levies and reinstate a HMRC Time to Pay scheme.
The British Independent Retailers Association’s chief executive Andrew Goodacre urged Truss’s government to provide support for the high street.
He has appealed for smaller retailers whose energy costs were rising by 50% to be given financial support.
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