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Support for the travel industry

Volume 683: debated on Monday 2 November 2020

The petition of the residents of the constituency of Kilmarnock and Loudoun,

Declares that the economic consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic have had a devastating effect on the travel and tourism sector; notes that, normally, outbound and inbound travel is estimated to generate approximately £65bn to the UK economy; further notes that an estimated 12,000 jobs are already lost and approximately a further 75,000 jobs could be at risk; further declares that no more operators should be pushed to bankruptcy; and further declares that any work by the Secretary of State for Transport to support the travel industry should be in coordination with the #SaveTravel Campaign organised by Trade Travel Gazette.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to immediately bring forward additional measures to support the travel industry, including the aviation sector, coach companies and travel booking agencies.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Alan Brown, Official Report, 14 October 2020; Vol. 682, c. 487 .]


Observations from The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Robert Courts):

The Government continue to work with the aviation sector and we have recently announced a package of measures in the “Winter Economy Plan” to support jobs and businesses through the winter months.

The Government recognise the challenging times facing the travel industry as a result of covid-19, including the aviation sector, coach companies and travel booking agencies.

Safe re-start

To start building confidence and restoring travel while focusing on public health, the Government followed the principles of the ICAO CART (council’s aviation recovery taskforce) and built first guidance on ensuring safe air travel. The UK was one of the members of the taskforce. We did so by building an expert steering group to engage and consult with sector regularly.

In July, the UK introduced international travel corridors (ITCs); a list of countries and territories “exempt” from the self-isolation requirement. In September, the Government announced the travel corridors policy now included adding and removing specific islands.

Support measures

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the Government have delivered one of the most generous and comprehensive packages of support globally, with a total fiscal response of close to £200 billion. The measures introduced, including loan schemes, tax deferrals and the coronavirus job retention scheme, have been designed to be accessible to businesses in most sectors and across the UK. We have also cut VAT to 5% for tourism and hospitality-focused businesses.

The Chancellor has announced an extension to the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme (CBILS), the bounce back loan scheme (BBLS) and other loan schemes until 30 November, ensuring there is further support in place for firms who need it during this ongoing period of difficulty. We will work with lenders and business representatives to introduce a new, successor loan guarantee scheme, set to begin in January.

Our job support scheme is designed to protect viable jobs in businesses which are facing lower demand over the winter months due to covid-19, to help keep their employees attached to the workforce. The scheme will open on 1 November 2020 and run for six months. Employers using the job support scheme will also be able to claim the £1,000 job retention bonus if they meet the eligibility criteria.

On 9 October, the Chancellor announced that the job support scheme will be expanded to protect jobs and support businesses required to close their doors as a result of coronavirus restrictions. We are also extending support to the self-employed by providing two grants that will last for six months, from November 2020 to April 2021. Grants will be paid in two lump sum instalments each covering a three-month period.

In relation specifically to the aviation sector, the Government continue to work with the sector to understand the scale of the impact on the workforce, as well as what can be done to retain skills within the sector. In addition, officials are actively engaging with industry and across Government on maximising use of the existing support measures such as DWP’s flexible support fund and rapid response service.

We have also introduced measures to build back consumer confidence in the sector, these measures ensure that ATOL protected customers will not lose their protection if they elected to take a refund credit note in lieu of a cash refund. Furthermore, the Government have committed to financially standing behind the air travel trust, who manage the ATOL scheme fund, to ensure it can meet any calls on the fund due to these vouchers or insolvency in the market.

Next steps

In October, we announced the establishment of the global travel taskforce to explore a testing regime for international arrivals, and to support the safe recovery of international travel. We have set up the global travel taskforce which will consider:

How a domestic testing regime for international arrivals could be implemented to boost safe travel to and from the UK and allow UK residents to travel with confidence;

What steps we can take to facilitate global business and tourist travel, including through bilateral agreements and multilateral forums by exploring with key international partners issues such as global common standards, testing models, "bubbles", measures around enforcement, exemptions and other border management measures; and

Beyond the above, what steps we can take to increase consumer confidence, ensure existing measures are being properly adhered to and restart international travel safely.

The taskforce will report to the Prime Minister in early November.