April 13, 2021

Dealt another blow

Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, vents his frustration after the PM's non-announcement this week but hopes for more clarity soon

When the Prime Minister brought forward the update on international travel from April 12 to Easter Monday, feverish speculation took hold of the business travel community. Could the change mean good news, or should we fear the worst? The one thing none of us predicted: no new information. Yet that’s exactly what happened on Monday night.

Boris Johnson took to the stage and urged us all to remain cautious whilst rightfully extolling the successes of the vaccine roll-out. Where was the promised international travel update?

Only during questions did we get our answer. Too soon to book a holiday abroad – yet. What about those who need to travel for work but face a £5,000 fine if their evidence isn’t strong enough?

More information was supplied in an embargoed information sheet. We are getting a traffic light system, incorporating testing and more transparent criteria. Exactly what we have been campaigning for. Why didn’t the Prime Minister say so?

The BTA was not alone in venting its disappointment via media and social channels. As an industry we have lost over 55% of our employees, faced revenues of less than 10% year-on-year and been excluded from critical loans due to not having a high street presence. All this ignored by a Prime Minister who failed to deliver information that impacts on thousands of livelihoods. How many more blows are we expected to take?

Today we have re-grouped. We fight for recognition on April 12 as the Global Travel Taskforce unveils its plan. We want to believe this will be a coherent, deliverable return to safe international travel.

We support the Government in prioritising public health. Our faith in its understanding of the crucial role business and leisure travel plays in our economy and wellbeing is waning. The business travel community needs a route map to the return of travel. We can work with data rather than dates.

Our sector’s expertise is analysing how international events impact on plans. If we are told how travel restrictions will be determined we will work with the Government to deliver safe international travel. It will contribute to UK plc and place our country at the heart of global trade once more.

thebta.org.uk