Business travel professionals came out in force today to play their part in a Travel Day of Action to raise awareness of the plight of the travel industry.
They joined with leisure agents, tour operators, pilots, cabin crew and airport employees in a series of organised lobby groups in London, Edinburgh and Belfast, alongside a nationwide social media campaign.
The Travel Day of Action, which made the headlines in the mainstream media, was designed to put pressure on the Government to take advantage of the successful vaccine rollout and safely reopen travel. Ministers are also being urged to provide tailored financial support to travel-related businesses still suffering from the impact of the pandemic crisis.
Data from ABTA estimates that as many as 195,000 jobs have been lost or are at risk within the travel industry while IATA research indicates that hundreds of thousands of aviation jobs are being supported by the furlough scheme.
The industry argues that while other countries are forging ahead with pragmatic, risk-based schemes that allow safe travel – including most recently Germany, France and Spain – the UK is lagging behind.
This week ministers confirmed they are “working on” plans for quarantine-free travel from amber list countries into England for people who are fully vaccinated. At present, arrivals from amber countries have to isolate for 10 days.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government was looking at ways to allow the vaccine to “bring back” some freedoms but said the plans had not yet been “clinically advised”.
The Day of Action saw around 800 people attend an organised lobby outside Parliament in London, plus 200 people at an event in Holyrood in Edinburgh and 100 in Belfast.
There was also a virtual lobby in Cardiff, activities at a range of UK airports, and meetings with MPs locally.
The industry bodies behind the action include the Business Travel Association, British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), Airlines UK, Airport Operators Association and the Advantage Travel Partnership.
Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association (BTA) said: “Today’s day of action highlights the dire straits of our industry. The travel sector remains in lockdown as the rest of the country opens-up. Business travel is essential for the UK economy and our ability to trade on the international stage. The Government must provide targeted support and extend the green list at its next review.”
Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK, said: “Airlines are at the absolute limit of what they can borrow and without a genuine reopening this summer they will require Government support to survive. The best way to save UK aviation is to enable a return to the skies – safely – by taking advantage of our vaccine dividend and allowing fully vaccinated passengers to travel without restrictions from amber and green countries. This is now happening across much of Europe and the UK is in grave danger of needlessly falling behind.”