Thank you to everyone who contacted me about the ‘Save Future Travel’ campaign.
I recognise the pressure the travel industry is under. With no clear end to the lockdown, the Government must do more to strengthen support for the travel industry through this difficult time, while ensuring consumer rights are protected.
ABTA has highlighted the potential for bankruptcy of many travel companies across the UK as a result of coronavirus. It is asking the Government to make temporary amendments to the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018, including extending the 14-day window for refunds.
On 23 April, ABTA’s Chief Executive stated that “despite our pleas for support, the UK Government has so far failed to act”. On 27 April, the Government advised it “will continue the dialogue with all stakeholders to ensure that the sector is looked after”.
I appreciate that where travel operators have already paid out funds for holidays, some flexibility may be necessary to allow for business liquidity. Refunds must be offered to those that want them as opposed to credit notes, but the responsibility is on the Government to protect the industry from insolvency moving forward.
ABTA has also raised concerns about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. I believe the Government needs to consider increasing the flexibility of the scheme to enable short-hours working and the resumption of relevant economic activities as and when social distancing measures are reduced.
It is encouraging to know the Government is in dialogue with lenders to make the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) work more effectively. However, we face a looming insolvency crisis if uptake is not improved dramatically. Although I welcome the Government’s announcement of 100% underwriting for the smallest loans, there remain serious issues about CBILS for those SMEs seeking more than £50,000 support. There are also massive challenges facing businesses for whom debt is not the answer.
ABTA has also called for appropriate responses by financial payments companies. I am aware that Which? is also calling on banks to clarify their “inconsistent and confusing approach” to refunds.