The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, put forward a rescue package yesterday afternoon aimed at helping those businesses fighting for survival due to the economic impact of the spread of coronavirus in the UK – including the leisure, traveland hospitality industry. This included state loan guarantees worth £330bn along with a further £20bn of financial handouts for struggling businesses, and a one-year break from business rates. Those struggling to pay their mortgages could get a mortgage holiday of up to 3 months.
Response from the travel industry has been muted – with many feeling the measures don’t go far enough when considering the catastrophic week the travel industry in particular has had, with most flights, cruises and tours suspended until the end of April and the FCO advising against all but essential international travel for the next 4 weeks. Travel companies are facing an unprecedented situation of having to refund cancelled trips, whilst seeing new bookings virtually flat line. Many travel companies are having to take emergency measures to survive the next few months, including closing shops, reducing hours and redundancies.
The trade body ABTA called the Chancellor’s statement “a positive statement of intent” but stressed that they need “the Government to follow-through on its commitment to “do whatever it takes” to support struggling UK travel businesses”. ABTA has also called on both the UK and EU to temporarily relax the cancellation obligations on package organisers under the Package Travel Regulations 2018, on the basis that the existing rules were not designed to cope with the current demands.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak told a press conference it was an "economic emergency. Never in peacetime have we faced an economic fight like this one."