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Round-table: Senior industry figures came together at T


Alistair Rowland


ravel Weekly’s office last


Kelly Cookes


Lewis warns businesses to ‘plan how to survive’


The industry is in a “brutal” situation and faces its biggest-ever challenge, The Travel Network Group chief executive Gary Lewis warned last week. Lewis told fellow industry


leaders: “Every business should be planning how they survive next week, next month, the next two months. “We’re talking about the whole


market 60% down, cruise 85% down. If we get that week on week on week it will have an enormous impact. “Are we going to see these levels


of bookings and trading until July? Very few travel companies have cash to last months at 85% down. That is why it’s a crisis.” Lewis noted the government


is trying to delay the coronavirus epidemic peaking until May and June, saying: “The government is trying to achieve a delay until the summer. We should be going along with that message, as brutal and as terrible as that is [for travel]. “It’s brutal because some


businesses will not survive if this lasts four months. Some won’t survive if it lasts one month. The reality is the


6 19 MARCH 2020


The crisis is [about] cash. Businesses need to work out how they going to get cash and for how long”


industry is not going to survive if it’s 12 months. So what should we be doing to get through? “The whole chain is integrated.


We’re all exposed to suppliers toppling over, to delayed cash payments. The crisis is [around] cash, and nobody knows how long this is going to last. So businesses need to work out how they going to get cash and for how long.” Lewis noted the chancellor’s


Budget last week “signalled some opportunities”, and said: “People should be looking at every opportunity – at controlling costs, cutting costs, having honest conversations [with business partners]. “If we are in lockdown for two months, everyone has to look


at their business and what the impact of that will be. The only things we can control right now are the conversations with existing customers and how we control costs.” He added: “Businesses fail slowly


and then very quickly. You have to be taking actions early enough to get through to the other side. “We’ve been advising members


for three weeks that the only things they can control are their costs.”


‘Industry needs support or will go into tailspin’


Businesses need urgent help from the government to prevent multiple failures, but measures in last week’s Budget went only part way in meeting industry leaders’ concerns. Abta chairman Alistair


Rowland said: “Abta lobbied before the Budget for bridging loans and credit availability, business rates relief, VAT and PAYE [tax] relief and payment holidays. There was a bit of recognition for small firms but not a lot, and not for medium and large businesses.” Barrhead Travel president


Jacqueline Dobson said: “The Budget was all about SMEs. There is no government help as yet for larger businesses with things like rates.” Josh Stevens, strategic


development director at Barrhead parent Travel Leaders Group, said: “We need support if this industry isn’t going to go into a tailspin. We’re doing more work but receiving very


Gary Lewis


little commission.” i Budget news: Business, page 46


travelweekly.co.uk


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