December 1, 2023

Industry urged to take action to avoid being a ‘constant punching bag’

The travel industry must do better at educating politicians and other policy makers or risk being a “constant punching bag”, Advantage Travel Partnership CEO Julia Lo Bue-Said told delegates at the consortium’s conference in Madeira.

Speaking on the first morning of the two-day conference, she said: “I think the pandemic taught us many things. For me, personally, the pandemic taught me to never assume policy makers know your market, but is that perhaps in part because we haven’t been educating them?”

“The pandemic also showcased the complexities of the industry, how regulation in a crisis is not fit for purpose, and how the supply chain can hang agents and consumers out to dry but also how the industry can work in unity and as a collective.”

At the end of 2021, Advantage called for the formation of an industry-wide group to represent the UK Outbound Travel sector.

“My vision to create one single united voice, similar to how the hospitality sector operates through their focused engagement at all levels across government departments and key stakeholders,” said Lo Bue-Said.

“Educating across the political spectrum, ensuring the Outbound sector gets the visibility it deserves, in both social, cultural and economic importance and seen as a business sector in its own right.”

She said since the call to action, a significant number of organisations have now registered in principle to support the initiative.

“We have also met with former cabinet minister Steve Norris, talked with public affairs experts and other stakeholders to gauge views and gather input.

“It is quite clear that there is a recognition that the sector needs to think differently, do better at representing itself or expect exactly the same outcome next time.” 

She said the travel industry must not be “swept under the carpet, forgotten or put itself in a position of being a constant punching bag”.

“Tough times are far from over. Our entire ecosystem needs protecting against future economic shocks, some of which are about to reach our doorstep,” she told Advantage members. 

“Continued government engagement with industry is paramount. Consumer rights, protection and regulation is complex, but we must step up the tempo and grow our muscle power to protect and use our collective influence in order to regenerate the future for UK Outbound travel.”

Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive Airlines UK, agreed the UK Government doesn’t understand the outbound travel industry.

“They see it as taking money out of the UK economy and that is a problem,” he said.

“The Government’s focus is on inbound and how do we get more people to visit the UK. It’s a challenge and I think it will take a number of years to change.”