‘Our sector needs dedicated help’ Lucy Huxley

The government must recognise travel is one of the hardest-hit industries and provide special support to ensure it survives the pandemic, say agency bosses. Gary Lewis, chief executive of

The Travel Network Group, said the sector was already reeling from the impact of the crisis and that the latest restrictions imposed on travel to Spain and its “enormous” hit to the summer 2020 market meant the government now had to step in. He acknowledged the furlough

scheme and business interruption loans, but added: “We’ve now seen our biggest destination hit. We were the first into this crisis and will be the last out. We need to be recognised

as a different industry that needs different support.” Lewis suggested extra support

should come in the form of grants to see businesses through to 2021. And he warned: “Be under no illusions, if 2021 doesn’t happen, the whole of the UK [travel] industry disappears.” Dorking Travel owner Alistair

McLean has written to the prime minister calling for Westminster aid. “Just as the government has

identified the restaurant business needs help and has introduced the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, it is now time to help the travel industry with specific assistance,” he said. McLean called for an extension

to the furlough scheme for travel firms until February 2021 and for the government to underwrite all

‘100,000 RCN refunds may be due this week’

Ian Taylor

Senior industry figures have warned of a heightened risk of failures following the July 31 expiry of many refund credit notes issued in the first weeks of the Covid crisis. Industry accountant Chris Photi,

head of travel and leisure at White Hart Associates, told a Travlaw industry webinar: “We’ve seen mounting closures of long-established businesses like Funway and Fleetway, and they

6 30 JULY 2020

are not likely to be the only ones. The July 31 refund credit note (RCN) deadline could result in failures.” Association of Atol Companies

advisor Alan Bowen agreed, saying: “We had about four weeks when a lot of people thought travel would be up and running by the end of July.” It is unclear how many RCNs

for cancelled holidays issued in March and early April had a July 31 expiry date, which was linked to a firm’s Atol-renewal date. Abta issued guidance extending all RCN expiry

cancellations where its advice has prevented travel. He also called for non-refundable grants and for an extended business-rates holiday for high street agents. The Travel Village chief executive

Phil Nuttall launched a petition calling for an outbound tourism minister, saying “this industry is slowly being dismantled by the lack

Webcast guests Paul Charles (top left), Gary Lewis (bottom left) and’s Richard Singer with Lucy Huxley

of understanding” from government. It attracted more than 500 of its target 1,000 signatures within 24 hours. Paul Charles, chief executive of

The PC Agency and co-ordinator of the Quash Quarantine campaign, said: “Never mind an air bridge, it’s an economic bridge companies need

right now in this sector.” i T

ravel Weekly webcasts, page 10

Friday’s RCN deadline ‘could result in failures’

dates beyond July 31 in mid-April following the CAA’s completion of the delayed Atol-renewal process. Bowen suggested “there may be 100,000 or more” with a July 31 expiry date and said: “A lot of people are saying ‘We haven’t got the money’ and talking to their accountants. One business went to borrow £2 million last week. Customers will be considering what to do on August 1. Some will seek chargebacks.” A senior leisure industry

source downplayed the number of

businesses at risk, saying “it’s not a significant number”, but warned: “For those in a critical position, not confident in their financing, it could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. There is a fine line in the current market between financial engineering and failure.” Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer

said: “When the date expires, the customer is entitled to a cash refund unless they choose to roll it forward. There may be discussions on that, but that is the principle.”

PICTURE: Shutterstock

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