Abta considers grants legal action Juliet Dennis

Abta will consider legal action in its battle for higher restart grants for travel agents if the government does not respond favourably to its latest plea for specific and extended financial aid. The association said it was in

talks with specialist solicitors having already written to government about the issue as part of its response to the Global Travel Taskforce report. Abta said: “We are hoping for a

positive response but, if not, we will review all possible options open to us in the interests of our members. This will include the potential for a legal challenge, about which we are in discussions with specialist solicitors.”

Agents are classed as non-

essential retailers in Strand One, which entitles them to a one-off grant of between £2,667 and £6,000 from their local authority, while gyms, hairdressers and pubs fall into Strand Two, entitling them to between £8,000 and £18,000 depending on rateable value. Abta has already “made it clear”

to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) that agents should be entitled to the higher grants while scores of agents have independently contacted local councils, which hand out the grants, and MPs to argue their case. Between 40 and 50 of The Travel

Network Group’s members have sent letters to MPs asking them to urge

‘Being godmother is honour for me, John and staff’

Lucy Huxley

Hays Travel chair Dame Irene Hays has described her announcement as godmother of P&O Cruises’ new ship Iona as an honour for herself, her late husband John and all the agency’s staff. Hays was unveiled as Iona’s

godmother this week and will name the vessel in a “landmark ceremony” on May 16, the day before domestic cruising is slated to resume. The festivities in Southampton

will also include a performance from Take That frontman Gary Barlow, music director of Iona’s

6 29 APRIL 2021

710 club. Hays revealed she had chosen an outfit for the occasion in John’s favourite colour. John died at the company’s headquarters in November last year. She told a Travel Weekly webcast:

“This is an honour for me, for Hays Travel and for John, and it is an honour for all the staff who for more than four decades have supported one of our key partners.” Hays added that the opportunity

to attend the ceremony would represent a “step towards normality”, despite it being a largely virtual occasion. P&O Cruises president Paul

There is a lot of

frustration [among members] that they are only eligible for the lower level

BEIS to update guidance to local councils so agents are in line for the higher grants. A spokeswoman said: “Lobbying

should continue. We are doing this through letters our members are sending to MPs, or our direct letters to BEIS and the chancellor.” Kelly Cookes, leisure director at

the Advantage Travel Partnership said: “There is a lot of frustration

[among members] that they are only eligible for the lower level.” Peter Cookson, chairman of

miniple Spear Travels, which has so far received grants for five of its 12 branches, said: “Abta is pushing hard. Common sense is needed. We haven’t even ‘restarted’ yet and have no idea when we will.” Miles Morgan Travel chairman

Miles Morgan favoured legal action. “People would have to understand how our business model works,” he said. But Three Ways Travel co-

director Lorraine House feared the issue was now a “done deal” after her local MP sought clarity from the Treasury. “It’s so frustrating,” she said.

Dame Irene Hays

Gary Barlow

Ludlow said the choice of Hays as godmother “felt perfect” and reflected the line’s partnership not just with Hays Travel, but also the wider agent community. He said: “Travel agents have

always been so important to P&O Cruises. Over the last 12 months it has been very difficult, we have gone through massive challenges together and I don’t think we could have done it without each other’s support.” He added: “It is another reason

why Irene accepted our invitation – it felt so perfect to celebrate coming through this.”

Ludlow confirmed that there

would be an opportunity for “thousands” of travel agents to tune in to watch the naming ceremony live, with a number of ‘Iona Insiders’ forming a virtual audience on giant screens in Southampton. Iona will then undergo final

preparations before commencing domestic sailings alongside Britannia from August 7. He added: “Recovery is certainly

on the horizon and Iona’s arrival into the UK and naming ceremony will be the ray of hope the cruise sector has needed for such a long time.”

PICTURE: Steve Dunlop

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