Scottish travel agents 'fighting for survival'

Scottish travel agents have called for emergency help to address their “real and immediate jeopardy” caused by the Covid-19 pandemic

Saturday, 12th September 2020, 7:30 am
Travel agents want coronavirus tests at airports to reduce quarantine periods. Picture: SNS

Agents said they faced collapse because they are owed up to millions of pounds each by airlines and operators that has been paid out in refunds to their customers.

The Scottish Passenger Agents Association (SPAA) said the industry was “fighting for survival”.

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Agents must refund customers on request if their holidays are cancelled, but the SPAA said members had been awaiting reimbursement in turn from airlines for more than four months.

In a letter to the Scottish and UK governments, the SPAA said: “It’s becoming ever clearer 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.”

The body has called for a New Zealand-style reimbursement scheme to help both agents and their customers.

It has also sought an extended furlough scheme, and parity for Scottish agents with a grant scheme available to those in the rest of the UK.

The SPAA said that Scottish agents have received 25 per cent less support.

It said: “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.

The body has also called for mandatory coronavirus testing of passengers arriving at airports, with follow-up tests six to eight days later.

It said this would reduce the current 14-day quarantine requirement for people travelling to Scotland from countries including France and Spain.

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

“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."

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We agree completely with the SPAA about how essential it is the UK government extends the furlough scheme to stop avoidable job losses – and we have made that point repeatedly to the UK government.

“If they fail to do so then the necessary financial powers should be transferred to Scotland so that we can take the action needed here.

“We recognise the massive importance of the travel industry to Scotland and are doing everything we can with the limited powers available to us to support it through the current crisis.

“On airport testing, we understand industry concerns and want to continue to explore with the sector whether there is a better balance around quarantine, but we are clear the risk to public health must be minimised.

“Ultimately, if we do not keep the virus under control, we make life even harder for the economy and particular sectors. We hope to find a ­balance to weigh up both the public health and economic arguments.”

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