Government relaxed amber restrictions ‘to avoid financial support’

Transport secretary Grant Shapps relaxed rules for arrivals into England from amber destinations to avoid having to give the travel industry tailored financial support, a leading agent believes.

Sutton Travel managing director Andy Tomlinson told a Travel Weekly webcast said government would have been forced into providing tailored financial aid to the sector if it had not waived self-isolation for Brits returning from amber list countries from July 19.

He said: “The cynic in me thinks that if we didn’t have it opened up now, there would have had to have been some financial support for the sector.

“So, possibly, by making things open up from the week after next, it has probably stopped the Treasury from needing to step in and give us financial support, because I don’t think we could have been ignored for too much longer.

Tomlinson added: “If we’d have had to wait until the end of August before things started opening up for us, the government would have had to step in and now they don’t have to.”

Richard Slater, owner of Henbury Travel and north west chair of Abta, said financial assistance was still needed despite the requirement to quarantine when arriving from an amber country being removed.

Slater, who met with Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham this week, urged fellow agents to get in touch with their local councils to ensure they are eligible for the latest grants that are available from the end of July.

“There are some grants coming out late July,” he pointed out. “It’s important for travel business owners to get in touch with their councils whilst they’re still writing the policy now to just explain how our business works, because a lot of these councils, when they’re considering these grants, think that we take the money instantly and generate commission immediately.

He suggested: “Write to the council and state precisely what’s happening; how your business works, why you need that grant, and why travel industry should be a priority over hospitality, etc.”

Slater added: “Having talked to Cheshire East, the lady laughed when we said that we got a £2,500 restart grant while the hairdresser next door got £8,000. So get in contact with your council and put your case forward.”

Asked if he felt the industry’s increased pressure on the government, including via the Travel Day of Action last month, had driven Shapps’ decision on amber destinations, David Walker, of The Travel Snob, said: “I am putting it all down to the fact that we went down to Westminster the other week. That’s what I’m going to tell customers – that we’ve done it for them.”

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