Travel cannot recover without a joined-up and cohesive approach within its own ecosystem and the newly elected Scottish Government must open its eyes and ears to listen to businesses of all shapes and sizes across the industry. Travel is far more than just aviation and airports.
If the Scottish Government is committed to restoring international travel safely and effectively, it must liaise with travel agency businesses and ensure there is a robust framework in place for information sharing and that clear lines of communication are open. This also means that travel agencies and other travel businesses must have sufficient representation in all relevant working recovery groups.
It is very apparent that there is very little understanding on how the travel business works as it crosses so many different portfolios. It would be really beneficial and make more sense if outbound travel could be added to a travel and tourism portfolio which would cover outbound and inbound travel as well as aviation and airports.
The Scottish Government must consider the future of the high street. Many of our members are committed to the high street and to our local communities and they always have been. They have created thousands of jobs in towns across Scotland and have invested time and time again in reinvigorating the high street.
We need the Scottish Government’s support if our members are going to survive and continue to exist and invest in the high street. Travel agencies make up the fabric of many communities across UK & Scotland and are at high risk of disappearing if the right financial support or recovery plan is not put in place.
The following statements are key pillars fundamental to save the Scottish travel industry
- An absolute commitment to engage on a four nations approach to travel, previous unsyncopated decisions have created confusion and lack of clarity within a UK perspective in both the travel industry and the general public.
- UK’s Global Travel Task force have already conversed and listened to the travel trade associations and key stakeholders who understand the market, and the Scottish Government must do the same via the Aviation Working Group. The results of the meetings should provide a clear and precise roadmap categorically stating that the intention is to restart global travel again, with fixed timelines and details of the triggers that will change the status of a country. This should involve documented data and production of statistics on a regular basis.
- The SPAA appreciates that protection from spreading Covid-19 is paramount and that testing is a necessity for the foreseeable future but there needs to be an urgent response on the use of other acceptable forms of testing than just the PCR test and this should include the prioritisation of a solution for the lowering of the costs of testing and a timetable to enable the roll out at all Scottish Airports.
- Health certification to prove vaccinations status for outbound international travel is essential but in addition there needs to be an accepted form of, maybe initially, a paper health certificate which would then result in a digital pass such as the IATA travel pass, or similar system, which will need to be globally accepted.
- Noted and clear acceptance that the contribution of travel and tourism to the economy is vital and must be addressed before complete and irreversible ability on the ability of the UK to trade around the world, and the hard-fought connectivity to our Scottish Airports is lost, leaving trade and inbound tourism severely weakened.
- Without a strong economy the country will not be able to sustain a strong NHS and the ability to fund essential services severely damaged in the longer term. Without international tourism the drop in the levels of income to support the economy will be substantial. ( A typical domestic tourist only spends about a tenth of what an international tourist does)
- Reuniting loved ones around the globe is a basic human right and denying access is no longer acceptable for the long-term good mental health of the population.
- Business which supports the infrastructure on which the country relies must be supported to initiate a strong and healthy commercial bounce-back. Businesses need access to travel again, creating new contracts and jobs, for example international conferencing and events in Scotland which are another major contributor to the economy.
- APD and taxes directly or indirectly levied on the travel industry should be suspended allowing sufficient time for the industry to recover. Perhaps in times to come any replacement tax could be considered to perhaps contribute to the costs of infrastructure at airports and also contribute to a fund to reduce carbon emissions or similar
- Travel agencies are going to need long-term support in order to build back their businesses and navigate the recovery period. Will the Scottish Government commit to robust financial support that allows retail agencies to feasibly reopen, begin trading and to make plans for future growth and investment?
- The Scottish Government paved the way in the UK for recognising the specific needs of the retail travel agent via the very first Travel Agency fund. The SPAA are very grateful for this and were delighted that the Northern Ireland Government followed in the Scottish Government’s footsteps.
However, the fund was only intended to last until March yet the international travel remains at a standstill for an indefinite period. Our final strategic framework grants have been paid yet we still have no opportunity to generate revenue until international travel can resume.
As travel agencies and homeworking agents (who have had no dedicated financial support during this pandemic) cannot realise revenue until the customer returns from travel, it is unlikely we’ll begin to generate revenue until late 2021. While we’re classed as retail and are looking forward to reopening our stores, unlike retailers who sell home-ware or clothing, we effectively are either restricted in our trading - as we have nothing to sell; yet we have to continue to pay the costs involved in running retail units.
If the Scottish Government won’t commit to dates for reopening travel, we would ask for its commitment to providing additional financial support to sustain those relying on income from international travel.