July 15, 2024

Business travel sector still in lockdown, MPs told

The BTA, GBTA and Virgin Atlantic joined forces this week to raise awareness of the plight of the business travel industry.

At a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group  (APPG) for Business Travel on Tuesday, BTA CEO Clive Wratten told MPs: “It is not an exaggeration to say that as a sector, we are still in lockdown. We look enviously at the hospitality sector operating at 50% whilst understanding their frustrations. We are not even operating at 10% of pre-pandemic levels with no end to this crisis in sight.”

Wratten called for international protocols to restart travel and for an extension of furlough for the sector.

He told MPs that if the furlough scheme ends in September and current restrictions stay in place, there “won’t be a TMC left standing”.

He spoke of the failure of Baxter Hoare, the TMC which went into administration earlier this year, and described it as “a brutal end cruel end” for one of the oldest travel firms in the UK.

“Our TMC leaders are daily fighting to keep businesses going with no money coming through the door, trying to keep rooves over families’ heads and food on the table,” he told the APPG.

“The stress is having an unprecedented impact on mental health across the sector and we fear it’s a time bomb waiting to explode.”

Suzanne Neufang, CEO of the GBA, told MPs the UK has seen the sharpest contraction of business travel spend globally and said the opening of UK-US transatlantic routes is critical.

“The US is the UK’s largest single trading partner, accounting for 15.7% of UK exports in 2019. Similarly, the UK is one of the US’s most important trading partners. We must work together with the Atlantic Charter’s taskforce to get these routes open quickly and safely.”

In a joint statement following the meeting, Wratten and Neufang said UK-US relations are at a critical point.

“It is only with our two associations joining together that we can keep momentum around the importance of business travel across the globe,” it said.

“Today’s APPG was an important step and we thank the MPs present for their dedicated support at such a difficult time. We look forward to further Government interactions on both sides of the Atlantic that will get us trading and doing business face-to-face once more.”

Also at the meeting were Graeme Elliott, Director Government Affairs and Sustainability for Virgin Atlantic, and Simon Hawkins, the airline’s Director of UK-US Sales.

The APPG is chaired by Stephen Hammond MP, who will be speaking at The Business Travel Conference in London on September 14-15.