New figures* from ABTA - The Travel Association reveal that 8,770 jobs have already been lost or placed at risk across the Scottish travel sector and its supply chain since the crisis started. This figure represents almost a third - 31% - of all jobs in the industry.
ABTA says the Scottish Government has exacerbated the impact on jobs and businesses by advising people not to travel but not providing any grant support for travel agents or tour operators.
The grant schemes currently in place to support businesses in Scotland, such as the ones set out by the Strategic Framework Business Fund, do not contemplate travel businesses. This means many Scottish travel agents and tour operators are not getting the support they need despite facing severe financial distress.
More than 28,000 people across Scotland are either employed directly by travel businesses operating within, or have jobs reliant upon, the outbound travel sector, and in normal times, outbound travel is worth just over £1.87bn to the Scottish economy every year.
To highlight the seriousness of the situation facing many travel businesses in Scotland, ABTA has written to Scotland's Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Kate Forbes, reiterating the urgent need for a plan to save jobs in the industry and calling for grant funding to be made available to travel businesses.
It has also raised its concerns about the repeated statements made by the Scottish Government on social media and in briefings about not travelling overseas 'unless it's essential', the damage that does to consumer confidence and businesses and that, if such advice is given, support should be provided to those businesses affected.
Mark Tanzer, ABTA's Chief Executive, says:
'With the UK in the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, it is right that the Scottish Government's acts in the interest of Public Health. But if the Scottish Government is advising individuals against travel, as it has done on numerous occasions, then Ministers must recognise that travel businesses are in effect closed, in all but law, and should therefore be provided with appropriate financial support to help them through this difficult time.
'With the right assistance, travel businesses remain viable in the medium-long term. Many of the businesses that find themselves struggling right now were highly successful, profitable, enterprises before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and can be so again with the right framework of policy and financial support.'
ABTA research** finds that Scots continue to have a great appetite for holidays abroad once they can do so, with 30% of people in Scotland planning to spend more on travel, with the majority saying it is because they travelled less this year (80%). This indicates the viability of these businesses.
The rapid economic recovery of Scotland will depend on the recovery of international travel, for which implementing an agreed testing regime for arrivals is crucial. ABTA says it is important the Scottish Government works with the UK Government to put a testing regime in place similar to England's 'Test to Release'. This should reduce the quarantine timeframe and build consumer confidence, while currently 81% of Scots have said to be slightly or extremely concerned about having to quarantine when returning to the UK.**
Additionally, the strength and speed of recovery in Scotland will be intricately linked to its connectivity and the ability of businesses to access the global trade links that the travel industry underpins. Significant volumes of goods are imported and exported in passenger planes, so COVID-19 has not only drastically curtailed tourism and passenger movements, but also disrupted freight flows.
Notes to editors
* ABTA's new figures are based on a survey of ABTA Members, carried out 23- 30 October 2020. Direct jobs in the outbound travel industry - tour operators, travel agents and airline staff.
** Consumer research was conducted by The Nursery Research and Planning (who acquired Arkenford, specialists in leisure and tourism research) https://www.the-nursery.net/. The ABTA Consumer Trends survey generated responses from a nationally representative sample of 2,000 consumers using an online research methodology and related to holiday booking habits in the 12 months to July 2020. Fieldwork was conducted in August 2020.
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