Greater Manchester mayor backs travel’s calls for sector-specific support

The mayor of Greater Manchester has backed travel industry demands for sector-specific support after meeting with Abta representatives.

Andy Burnham met the association’s director of public affairs, Luke Petherbridge, and north west chair Richard Slater, owner of Henbury Travel, to discuss the need for financial support for the region’s travel businesses.

In a meeting in Macclesfield, the pair explained to Burnham the situation many travel agents, tour operators, and other travel businesses are facing both within the Greater Manchester area and nationally.

After the meeting, Burnham said: “Travel businesses across Greater Manchester and the UK have suffered significant difficulties for almost 18 months now, and it’s important that government acknowledges these ongoing struggles. I will continue to speak up for the sector and the people who work in it to ensure they receive the attention and the support they need.

“I welcomed the chance to talk with Abta and to hear their views. As we move into the summer period the need for additional financial support for the travel sector is becoming ever clearer.

“While some travel restrictions have been lifted, it is clear that the sector cannot yet open up fully, leaving many businesses and workers without any sense of certainty about the weeks and months to come.

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Burnham urged travel businesses in the Greater Manchester area to seek support from the Business Growth Hub, which includes specialist advice around accessing finance, and has dedicated advisors with tourism backgrounds who he said can support in identifying new opportunities and managing the impacts on businesses.

He also noted the Tourism and Hospitality Talent Hub is available for those in the sector who find themselves out of work, which he said offers job search support, retraining, or skills development

Petherbridge added: “Although international travel is opening up for those who are fully-vaccinated, many restrictions remain in place.

“Businesses must be supported by the chancellor [Rishi Sunak] with tailored support, including an extension to furlough support – at 80% levels – and other income support schemes, continued full business rates relief, and grants that properly take account of their trading conditions.

“It is encouraging that a growing number of politicians are engaging with the industry’s plight and speaking up for travel. The industry needs to continue to engage and to press the case for government to re-think their approach to financial support for the sector.”

Abta has more than 100 member businesses in the Greater Manchester area. Each has faced around 16 months of restrictions on trade, including lengthy periods when overseas travel was illegal. Continuing restrictions mean that many are still seeing little income.

Slater added: “International travel and tourism is hugely important for the Greater Manchester area and the government needs to ensure that a risk-based approach is followed to enable people to travel again safely.

“Travel businesses will play a vital role in Manchester’s economic recovery, and were not only viable but thriving ahead of the pandemic. They deserve to be supported and mustn’t be abandoned as the domestic unlocking progresses.”

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