February 24, 2024

Rallying cry for travel war chest

Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO of Advantage Travel Partnership, is calling for contributions to a war chest to fund a dedicated lobbying team to help the industry’s voice be heard

The demise of our world-class travel industry is swinging in the balance after 20 months of restrictions having been shunned once again when it comes to financial support. These last two years have left me – and I’m sure many others – feeling exasperated and like we have nowhere else to turn. This has all culminated in me wondering how to try and make effective change.

That’s why I am sharing a rallying cry, calling on the entire outbound travel sector to come together with one voice to create a war chest to fund a serious lobbying group. The ‘UK Outbound Travel’ group will aim to help the industry’s voice be heard as we continue to navigate these hugely challenging times. By no means am I an expert in this field, and I don’t know what the outcome will look like, but I know we have to try.

“Every travel business in the industry has been brought to the brink, having spent 20 months fighting for survival”

Over recent weeks and months, there have been criticisms that the industry is too fragmented and inconsistent with what we are asking for from government. In fact, this is incorrect. Our asks, coordinated through the Save Future Travel Coalition, have been aligned. What isn’t aligned is the lobbying required to engage with government at the right level across all relevant departments. Never before has the industry had to deal with such a crisis at such a magnitude as a global pandemic. The issues that we have been facing are much bigger than any one person or any one business. We need to show a united front and be clear on what we want from our government. To ensure we are heard, we need to invest in a dedicated heavyweight lobbying team.

Every travel business in the industry has been brought to the brink, having spent 20 months fighting for survival. Over 1 million people were employed by the outbound sector which has seen 200,000 job losses since March 2020. People are still struggling to pay bills and keep staff in jobs. With revenue down by 80%, mountains of debt and onerous testing still in place, the travel industry including travel agents and tour operators are feeling battered, bruised and not listened to. Keeping the travel industry within the news and headlines is one thing we’ve managed to do at Advantage, but media coverage and interviews can only do so much.

“People are still struggling to pay bills and keep staff in jobs”

We know that our colleagues in the hospitality industry have received financial business support, and the clear difference between our two industries is that they have been successful in lobbying government because they have a dedicated organisation that does just that.

On LBC with Nick Ferrari I called out to Rishi Sunak to ask why he has not met with us. The travel industry is such a vital sector and yet we are not getting any cut-through with MPs.

Having now reached the end of my tether, The Chancellor has shown us that the sector hasn’t been heard, so my challenge to my colleagues across the industry – who will join me in giving us a voice and doing it in the right way through dedicated investment and to stop the cynicism once and for all? For businesses or anyone interested in taking part and assisting with funding, should contact: julia@UKoutboundtravel.com