Scotland’s Travel Sector Faces Grim Future Without Tailored Support

Joanne Dooey, president of the SPAA

Travel Agents Losing £Millions As Travellers Endure The Safe List ‘Hokey Cokey’

THE Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA), the professional body for Scotland’s travel agents and travel partner associates, is warning the Scottish and UK Governments that, without a tailored package of help for the sector, Scotland risks losing its travel industry.

Traveller confidence, which was virtually non-existent has fallen even further with the ‘safe list Hokey Cokey’ where countries are in and out of the quarantine requirements at a few hours’ notice.

In a recent survey of members, 37% of respondents indicated they had sustained losses to date of over £1million with 26% experiencing losses to date of between £101k and £500k. Since lockdown, 80% of travel agents have experienced a drop in busines of over 75%. This was compounded when Spain was removed from the safe list, with 100% of agents reporting no bookings or a significant drop in bookings at this time.

The removal of Spain from the ‘safe list’ and the recognition that the list of countries which have quarantine requirements on return is extremely fluid and can change at any time, has led to more than half of agents having made no, or very few, new bookings. The SPAA has been calling consistently for a regionalised approach to quarantine to stimulate the market.

Joanne Dooey, president of the SPAA says, “We have written to the Scottish and UK governments throughout the pandemic, advising them of the perilous state of the travel sector in Scotland and did so again last week. We have asked them to consider urgently a tailored extension of the furlough scheme to March 2021, a more nuanced approach to quarantine, support through rates and rent deferrals or reductions and robust airport testing.  Outbound travellers are worth £1.7 billion to Scotland and outbound travel sustains more than 26,000 jobs for our country.

“The business model for travel is unique and it means that travel agents pay all income received for a holiday to the travel operator. The agent only receives payment for their work 10 to 12 weeks before a trip begins. Not only have our members had virtually no income for new holiday bookings made in 2020, but they have had to refund ‘lost’ holidays this summer, leaving them with negative income. The stark truth is that most of our members are unlikely to generate income until around March 2021 at the earliest.

“We’re facing a tsunami of redundancies in the Scottish travel sector. More than 50% of travel agents in our survey have either made redundancies already or have notified employees that their positions are at risk. Almost 90% of travel agents tell us that they have furloughed all or some of their staff, with 75% of these agents furloughing ¾ of their staff or more. Without an extended furlough scheme, or some form of tailored support, there will undoubtedly be waves of further job and business losses.”

The SPAA, founded in 1921, is the world’s oldest organisation representing travel agents. It currently has 120 member companies, all their associated agencies across Scotland including many home workers, and 92 associate members across the travel and transport industry.

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