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Published on Friday, January 29, 2021

Travel's 'shopping list' of demands too easy to reject, says new industry body

Leaders of the newly-formed Travel Industry Alliance have admitted the odds are stacked against them in their bid to force policy change in Downing Street but insisted 'that doesn't mean we shouldn't fight'.

Co-chairmen of the TIA, Danny Callaghan and Derek Moore, told Travelmole it would take a different approach to the industry's current lobbying tactics - none of which have worked - to convince authorities to listen.

Callaghan, Chief Executive of the Latin American Travel Association, said the broad 'shopping list' of demands favoured by industry bodies has been too easy to reject.

Writing letters 'to Grant Shapps or Dominic Rabb who get a hundred million letters every day' also doesn't work, he said.

Instead, Callaghan said TIA will take a targeted and nuanced approach and focus on the 'must haves that will get us moving again'.

"My concern was the shopping list approach of bundling everything together has made it more difficult," he said. "It's easier to say no to something like pre-departure testing, which is essential for travel, if you wrap it up with something we would love, which is financial support but which is easy to turn down.

"My view has always been that we should focus on key issues one at a time, even if they are done concurrently. Our focus is on that."

The two key aims of the TIA - which comprises nine industry bodies - are to end mandatory quarantine of UK arrivals 'as soon as possible', and to press the Foriegn Office into playing an informational, rather than an advisorty role, over Covid.

Moore said: "We all agreed that if you ask the government for money, they suddenly go deaf and are not interested, hence why we stayed away from any discussion about money to save the industry."

TIA will look to channel its message to government through dialogue with backbench MP members of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Future of Aviation.

For progress to be made, Moore said it was imperative to 'work with, talk to and foster contacts with MPs'.

"And there are MPs who…..are interested in travel, who understand it and have expressed an interest in helping the industry," he said.

"If we can talk to them, and give them advice as to what we need and how it can be done…that is the key to at least trying to move things forward.

"It's an uphill battle but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to fight. Despite the fact that it's going to be difficult to achieve the things the industry needs, that's not a reason for not fighting and not trying.

"The Government has made it fairly clear at times that they regard the travel industry, frankly, as expendable. That is something we have to fight.

"We are not pretending the TIA is the one organisation that can sort all this. But the more we work together the stronger we are."

Asked whether more radical action was needed, such as marching on Downing Street, Moore said it was important to keep MPs onside 'rightly or wrongly'.

"If you work against them you'll get nowhere. It's a case of hoping the powers of persuasion will work."

Meanwhile, Moore predicted any travel recovery was unlikely before the summer, and said the summer season itself was in the balance.

"Summer is probably a 50/50 possibilty," he said. "I think 2022 is probably going to be all right, but the trouble with any roadmap, and this is what the government is facing, is that events are continually changing and move the goalposts. So it's almost impossible to predict." 

By Steve Jones, Contributing Editor (UK)

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