be standing still for a while and then, when the future looks slightly more predictable, we’ll have an eye on growth again, I’m sure.”

Heapy on . . . the government’s view of the travel industry “I think that in the future, the government may take more notice [of outbound travel] because this is a huge sector. I think they’ve come to realise over the last few weeks that the outbound travel industry is a massive sector responsible for employing hundreds of thousands of people and it generates a lot of income. They announced the VAT cut a couple of weeks ago, but of course that will benefit mainly the incoming travel industry. Inbound is probably prioritised over the outbound travel industry but it would be good to see some more measures taking place for the outbound travel industry. We’re a massive employer, a massive contributor to GDP.”

Heapy on . . . blanket quarantine in June “You can understand why other European countries did it so early, because they wanted to stop people coming in potentially spreading the disease. But in the 10-week period between other countries putting it in place and the UK government putting it in place, we were letting 10,000 people a day into the country, completely unchecked. So the words stable door and bolting horse spring to mind. It was probably more of a political decision than one based on scientific evidence, but it just felt like it was too late. I had no trouble with the concept of it, but not 10 weeks after everyone else.”

Heapy on . . . lobbying “We speak regularly to Abta, the CAA, members of the government and the opposition. We do a lot of lobbying behind the scenes because sometimes people in positions of

power don’t like lobbying where everything’s put in the press afterwards. They would prefer quiet, behind-the-scenes lobbying and that’s what we tend to do. We’re not glory-hunting; we don’t want to show how much we’re talking to people. We just get on with it and hopefully we can influence from behind.”

Heapy on . . . ‘inevitable’ changes to consumer protection “What an alternative will look like, I don’t know. They might just put a flat fee up or do a scheme where customers’ money is ringfenced until departure. There are pros and cons of either, but at the end of the day, I think it’s important that customers are protected – and feel protected – because the last thing this industry needs is another disaster that ruins the perception of how we deal with customers. I would support change, and we are talking to the CAA and other organisations as to what that

might look like. We will be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

Heapy on . . . the need for customer contact numbers “I know this is quite a contentious issue but some of our agent partners give over their customers’ numbers, and we’ve given a commitment not to use that for marketing purposes. We never would; we’ll write that into contracts and do whatever we need to do, but we wouldn’t abuse that. I understand agents’ reluctance to do this, but if we can find a way to get over this, then we can provide customers with real-time information instead of not being able to give our usual standard of service because we can’t contact them.”

Watch the webcast with Steve Heapy in full:

30 JULY 2020


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