Travel agents highlighting ongoing green list challenges

Travel agents have protested outside Westminster to highlight the ongoing challenges facing the sector, and the risks to businesses.

Sam Tyers of Destina
Sam Tyers of Destina

Sam Tyers, head of leisure sales at Destina Travel in Hagley, said the firm's head office had helped to organise a protest taking place in London on Wednesday.

It comes as the latest announcement of green list countries is due to be made on Thursday.

She also said job security is a "massive worry" and that the branch had sold two holidays this year.

"It's really to get the Government to understand how the industry works," she added.

"We don't take profits on a booking until clients travel, so for the last 15 months very little profit has come in.

"We're all doing flexi furlough, job security is a massive worry.

"I've got friends who own their own businesses with no bookings and I dread to think what they're going through.

"We were quite busy before the announcement about the green list changing.

"There needs to be some firm message rather than mixed messages.

"We're hoping there will be more on the green list as the people who do want to travel may then travel."

Meanwhile owners of businesses across the region which rely on travelling are concerned they are losing major contracts.

Calum Nisbet, commercial director at the Black Country Chamber of Commerce said: "Navigating this new world of travel and getting business trading internationally as safely and efficiently as possible is paramount for everyone.

"However, thousands of businesses, including many of our members, who need to fly their teams across the world to negotiate deals, service machinery or sign multi million pound contracts, are missing out on deals worth billions to companies across the globe, whose borders are open safely to business travellers.

“Currently, the US is flying over 2 million of its citizens on internal flights each day, with Europe close behind on passenger numbers, and, from July 1, the numbers are expected to increase as the continent lifts further restrictions across 27 countries.

“Our members are concerned, very concerned that they are losing out on major contracts to businesses from other parts of the world because they are unable to travel. We know that 20 per cent of business from Birmingham Airport, is corporate business travel. With firms unable to travel, there is a substantial knock on effect to orders and the regional economy.

“One firm has reportedly lost orders in the US due to fears that they will not be able to satisfy contracts due to Covid and their inability to travel."

Dudley-based Mechatherm is currently experiencing difficulties due to restrictions on foreign travel.

Chairman Andrew Riley said: “We have been told we have lost orders in the US solely due to their fears that we will not be able to satisfy our contracts due to Covid (and a lesser extent Brexit) and our inability to travel to site.

“The US companies we deal with are allowed to invite in a certain number of foreign Engineers to service and commission equipment but not solely for sales trips. It is a big ask for customers to buy expensive, multi million pound, pieces of capital plant without face to face meetings.

“Zoom/Teams meetings help but aren’t as good – particularly for new customers with whom we have no relationship previously.

“We understand that some of our competitor countries are producing schemes to allow vaccinated exporters to travel with reduced quarantine. It is our belief that without such a scheme the Government’s desire to increase exports will fail massively with consequent adverse effects on the UK GDP and employment.”

Ben Towe, group managing director from Hadley Industries in Oldbury, who has been quarantining in a hotel near Birmingham Airport following a business trip to the company’s site in Dubai, said: “We are an international business, and it is important that we are in touch with our leadership teams and hundreds of colleagues across the globe.

“Virtual meetings help, but on occasion it is imperative that we meet in person. In this instance, travel was required to renew residency visa that requires a physical visit every 180 days.

“I respect the Government’s position and knew that this visit would incur a quarantine period, but I do feel that travel restrictions need to be eased to help us continue to run our business effectively that were in place during the pandemic and before the introduction of Government quarantine hotels.”

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “As the home of one of the UK’s largest airports, travel is of course a key sector for the West Midlands and our economy.

“It is clear the pandemic has sadly done a lot of damage, and the latest figures released by Birmingham Airport make for grim reading. Behind the data are thousands of local people who have lost their jobs, with many more at risk without further support or a proper safe resumption of overseas travel.

“We have been lobbying Government to ensure they understand just how critical this situation is, and I am sure there will be a solution ASAP.”

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