Travel industry to be ‘devastated’ by second lockdown, insider warns

The future of the British travel industry, as well as our holidays, could be at risk if the government doesn't step in, an insider has warned.

Speaking to Daily Star Online, Sean Tipton from the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) spelled out the extent of the crisis facing the industry ahead of a "devastating" potential second travel ban.

Package tour providers and airlines are still reeling from earlier this year when the coronavirus pandemic brought the travel industry all but to a standstill.

Figures from the statistics agency Statista show year-on-year revenue-passenger kilometres (RPK), the metric used to measure worldwide travel, was down worldwide more than 88% year-on-year in August.

Last week, flight numbers were down more than 46% from 2019 figures.

While it is estimated that airlines worldwide stand to lose $314 billion (£241bn) in 2020 due to coronavirus.

Sean said that much of those costs have so far been borne by tour operators, to ensure customers get their refunds, but that this will have a knock-on effect.

"The travel industry is facing three key issues as a result of Covid-19," he said.

"Firstly, tour operators have shouldered the costs of people whose holidays were cancelled due to lockdowns.

"The second is that there has been a mass cancellation of future bookings because of the uncertainty over when things will get back to normal."

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He went on: "The sheer scale of these losses is huge, especially as tour operators for package holidays mostly have to pay the airlines and hotels upfront.

"The third issue is that the airlines have been bad at refunding tour operators their money, which delays the speed at which we can pass this on to the customers."

Sean also blamed the government's changing travel advice for knocking "public confidence" and putting people off booking holidays.

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He called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to follow ABTA's advice and provide more financial support to struggling tour providers and airlines.

"Germany and Australia have both stepped in to help out their respective travel industries," he said.

"The furlough scheme was helpful, but its replacement doesn't look like it will really do much."

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As well as providing more money to help tour operators and travel companies, Sean said ABTA are also calling for far more testing at all airports and ferry terminals in the UK.

"Last month we saw in Finland, Helsinki Airport is using sniffer dogs to detect coronavirus in passengers," he said.

"There's no reason we couldn't see something similar to that."

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He also called for an end to "blanket bans" on travel to certain countries.

"Early on, we saw Spain was one of the first countries Brits were told they would have to quarantine if they went there," he said.

"But at that time, there were almost no cases in the Canary Islands and Majorca, destinations extremely popular with Brits."

This week, it was reported that only a third of hotels in Majorca's main resort Palma would reopen next month, as visitors continue to stay away from the island.

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Last year, more than 18 million Brits visited Spain, and Sean said the government underestimates the importance of our holidays at its peril.

"We in the travel industry need special treatment," he said.

"In Germany, they have seen the money going into their tourism sector as an investment.

"Holidays are not a luxury, they are a necessity. They are a vital way to recharge our batteries, especially in these tough times."

Sean's advice to Daily Star readers looking to book their next holiday is to book package holidays, as you are guaranteed to get your money back if they are cancelled, which isn't the case if you organise flights and accommodation separately.

He also advised that next year, the holiday season will likely be extended later into autumn and earlier in the spring to make up for this year, so many deals in destinations such as Greece and Spain could be on offer during what would usually be the off season.

If you are travelling abroad soon, go to the government website for the most up-to-date foreign travel advice.

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