ORT with T ravel Weekly once again trade media partner. Ian Taylor and Lucy Huxley report

Weiss: Without tests, I fear we’ll lose Xmas and Easter


Seamus Conlon

edented dislocation’ gers and acquisitions

businesses which have “not pissed consumers off by not giving them refunds”. David Smith, a partner at private equity

investor Livingbridge, said there were “lots of viable businesses” which did not have as strong a balance sheet as others, noting the “level of dislocation” in the sector was “un- precedented” and “that’s what drives M&A”. Justin Maltz, partner at investor

Mobeus Equity Partners, said businesses with “good models and prospects” had entered the crisis without “quite enough liquidity” and now wanted “to partner up”. He said 2021 would be a “tough year”

but predicted “the appetite for M&A will come back” in 2022.

irgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss hit out at the government, saying “any one of us could have done better” in alleviating Covid’s impact on travel.

Weiss said: “One in 10 jobs in the UK depends on

travel. It’s short-sighted to think this industry can be leſt to its own devices.” He insisted: “Any one of us could have done things

beter and more decisively. Without an efficient test, trace and isolate system, this country will not recover. “And without the removal of quarantine we will not be

able to take off as an economy.” Asked if the government appeared finally to be

“working at pace” to develop a Covid-testing regime for travellers as it has said, Weiss responded: “When I say ‘at pace’, I mean rapidly.” He warned: “Tere is only a certain amount of time

you can survive if borders do not open up. If action is not forthcoming, I fear we will lose Christmas. I fear we will lose Easter.” Weiss told the convention a Covid-testing regime for

travellers would be “passenger-paid, at least initially” but argued: “Te costs of testing will come down rapidly”. Virgin Atlantic has axed 5,000 jobs – or “one in two people” – and Weiss conceded: “Tis is a crisis for which

‘Cashflow will be travel firms’ biggest issue’

Almost 90% of travel businesses made use of the government’s furlough job support scheme throughout the Covid pandemic, according to new research. As many as 84% expect to use

the coronavirus Job Retention Scheme until it ends on October 31 but the costs of the replacement Job Support Scheme will be too much for many struggling travel companies. While 90% of businesses

Ian Bell

returned to active operations by mid-September, 60% don’t expect to return to pre-lockdown booking volumes and values until 2022, according to the survey of 255 mainly Abta members by tax and consulting firm RSM.

we were really not prepared. It has been devastating, but we had to take these measures. Tere were moments we thought we might not survive. We had to ensure we had a credible story for recapitalisation.” He said Virgin was “flying mainly on routes we take most

cargo” but also “taking passengers”, with the Caribbean going “quite well” but the US struggling due to travel bans. He said the airline was testing all crew within 30

minutes at the airport, which he said was “the way to go”. Weiss insisted: “A vaccine will arrive. Recovery will be slow, but there will be a recovery.”

Almost a third of businesses

(31%) plan to restructure current operations and 26% are looking to access further finance as they seek ways to maintain and flex operations before they get back to near pre-pandemic trading levels. Getting the online experience

right is a priority, with a quarter of companies planning to invest in technology. RSM head of travel and tourism

Ian Bell said: “Maintaining cashflow will be the biggest challenge. Without further government support or a step- change in airport testing, which might offer the lifeline the sector desperately needs, the next few months will be really tough.”

22 OCTOBER 2020 9

Shai Weiss


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