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The Voice of Travel in Scotland

Established 1921

12 September 2020

An Open Letter to The Scottish and UK Governments fromthe Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association

The Scottish travel industry is literally fighting for survival.

We are calling on the Scottish and UK Governments to introduce an immediate strategy to protect air routes in order to safeguard the whole Scottish travel industry.

We ask that urgent consideration be given to the following;

  • Mandatory testing of arrivals at airports followed by further testing between 6 and 8 days, in an effort to reduce the quarantine requirements which are stifling the economy.
  • The removal of APD from all flights for a minimum of 6 months to stimulate demand for travel
  • We are also calling for tailored support for Scotland’s leisure travel agents and corporate travel management companies with the introduction of an extended furlough scheme and parity with the grant scheme available to agents in the rest of the UK which saw Scottish agents receiving 25% less in terms of monetary grants than their counterparts in the rest of the UK.

The Scottish Government itself recognises the importance of aviation to the Scottish economy with its report “How Scotland’s Transport Network Supports the Growth Sectors”

It reinforces the fact that air travel benefits business across Scotland by providing connections and access to wider markets, reduced transport costs, quicker deliveries and facilitates inward investment. The report states that for all business sectors ‘the more connectivity we have the more international trade will become an easy thing for businesses to do’.

Why would we want to turn our backs on £11 billion of economic activity in the wider Scottish supply chain which our valuable tourists bring us? Without outbound tourism, we lose inbound tourism. The two are co-dependent.

Outbound travel from the UK is worth £1.7 Billion, with 25,000 people employed in this sector in Scotland. International connectivity is extremely valuable to the Scottish economy and that is something no one can put a price on.

In January it was revealed that more than 10,000 jobs in Scotland were to be created or safeguarded through planned inward investment in Scotland – and that almost a third of these jobs were ‘high value’ roles.

Inward investment needs flight connectivity - not Zoom calls.

Scotland needs its connectivity.

Without immediate and targeted intervention, Scotland may face isolation from the rest of the world as the frequency of flights lessens and entire routes disappear. Both scenarios are possible, indeed probable, and both would cause irreversible long-term damage to our whole economy.

A survey undertaken in August by the SPAA concluded that 70% of travel agents have experienced a drop in business of over 75%; compounded by Spain being removed from the ‘safe list’ with no regard to the far lower island prevalence rates compared to the mainland. This resulted in 100% of all agents reporting no bookings or a significant drop. Agents who specialise in business travel also report that virtually none of their corporate clients aremaking any bookings. Business travel is at an all-time low.

How would we cope with a lack of high spending international visitors who will find it too difficult to fly into Scotland?

This is no idle warning.

Virgin Atlantic has announced cuts of more than 1150 jobs; Loganair plans tocut 68 jobs. There’s been a 30% cut in the EasyJet workforce, and BA has moved to axe 12,000 roles,

We are losing many travel brands on a daily basis including Flybe, STA Travel,Flight Centres, Shearings and Cruise and Maritime Voyages and, without urgent intervention more will join that list as we emerge from furlough.

Travel agents operate on an exceptional financial model. Many have had zerorevenue in 2020 – and indeed some have negative revenue due to having to also refund credit card commission charges.

It’s becoming ever clearer that our entire travel sector – and consequently our economy - is in real and immediate jeopardy. This is not a flight of fancy, yet there appears to be no support either at ground or strategic level to prevent this.

We are calling on both Governments to act now before our whole economy is at its journey’s end.

Travel agents operate on an exceptional financial model. Many have had zero revenue in 2020 – and indeed some have negative revenue due to having to also refund credit card commission charges.

So, we are also asking that the Scottish and UK Governments look to the travel agency refund reimbursement scheme* as fair to travellers and one which at the same supports the travel agency sector as a leading the way. New Zealand, as a small island country, obviously values its travel industry and wants it to have a future.

It’s becoming ever clearer that our entire travel sector – and consequently our economy - is in real and immediate jeopardy. This is not a flight of fancy, yet there appears to be no support either at ground or strategic level to prevent this.

We are calling on both governments to act now before our whole economy is at its journey’s end.

Yours

The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association on behalf of their members and association.

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