Travelogix CEO Calls on UK Government for Industry Targeted Support
Dear Mr Mishra,
As a local business owner, I am writing to you today to highlight the devastating effect the COVID-19 crisis is having on the travel industry and request support from you to highlight this to parliament with a view to requesting targeted support for the industry.
Whilst my business is located in Warrington, I reside in the constituency of Stockport so thought my correspondence should be directed to you. However, I have no objection with you forwarding this communication to other members of parliament should you feel it warranted.
By way of context, my company, Travelogix Ltd, supplies data management solutions to over 100 Travel Management Companies (TMCs) and Travel Agencies in the UK and, prior to the pandemic, handled travel data from our clients with combined transactional values in excess £2bn per annum. We employ 10 extremely proud and entrepreneurial staff and have been in business since 2011 when the company was formed by me and our Co-Founder.
I have been working in the travel industry since I left college at the age of 18 and founded and launched Travelogix in 2011. I can categorically say without any sense of equivocation that the current COVID-19 situation is quite seriously the largest challenge my business and our industry has ever faced.
At the outset, I would very much like to acknowledge the success of the measures put in place by Rishi Sunak and UK Government to support the wider economy. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has saved countless jobs, no more so than in my own company. This support has ensured that all my staff remain employed and can continue to support their respective families. On behalf of Travelogix – we thank you.
However, whilst CJRS has been beneficial to date, it is due to end at the end of April and, whilst we held out hope of a return to business and leisure travel early this year, this morning’s announcement regarding the cost of Hotel Quarantine and the maximum prison sentence of 10 years for breaching said quarantine leaves us, I believe, further away from a return to travel than at any other time during this pandemic.
Furthermore, the comments from Matt Hancock on BBC Breakfast on Wednesday 10th February caused me and my industry peers particular concern when he commented: “We don’t know the answer yet to when we will be able to travel again. It depends on the infection rate here and the vaccination rates. But it will also depend on other countries’ vaccination rates before we can do that unlock”. If the government base the opening of our borders on the rest of the world’s vaccination programmes, I estimate that there will be virtually no travel for at least another 12 months.
Travelogix has compiled a detailed industry report which highlights the devastating impact the pandemic has had on our clients and our industry to date. Furthermore, I believe that this data is more granular and detailed than can be produced by anyone else in the UK in relation to outbound travel due to the market share my company enjoys, the volume of booking data we handle and the demographic we serve.
The report shows that our clients have experienced a downturn in business in excess of 90% throughout the pandemic compared to 2019 and, other than CJRS, they have not been offered any industry specific support to get through the crisis, unlike other sectors such as hospitality, culture and the arts.
In addition to this, my clients have not been able to fully benefit from CJRS because they have had to keep a significant number of staff working full time in order to process refunds for bookings. A significant proportion of these bookings would have been made as far back as summer 2019 meaning that the financial impact on my clients stretches back to 6 months prior to the outset of the pandemic. And, due to the business model of TMCs and Travel Agencies alike, this work will have been carried out free of charge.
Liquidity is the single biggest challenge facing every travel business today and the existing grant schemes do not address the trading consequences of severe restrictions on international travel that have been put in place to date and currently have no end date indicated.
Whilst we appreciate that the health of everyone living in Great Britain is paramount and strict health protocols are understandable, the arbitrary way that the UK Government has applied and announced border restrictions, travel quarantine rules and the much-bemoaned test and release scheme has put undue and unreasonable pressure on our industry, reduced traveller confidence to an all-time low and ultimately continues to delay any reasonable recovery of the sector.
Travel Agencies, TMCs, Tour Operators and all those companies within the entire travel supply chain all need urgent help to bridge the gap, survive through to recovery and enable us to trade our way out of the crisis as soon as the government permits international travel to take place.
Going into business is a risk at the best of times, the success of Travelogix and our clients is in no part due to strong fiscal management, innovative solutions and amazing teams of professionals dedicated to our respective client bases. What is extremely worrying is that our future success or failure now lies completely in the hands of the UK Government.
We need the Government, specifically Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, to acknowledge the impact COVID-19 has had on our beloved industry and act, now.
The economic contribution of outbound travel, both leisure and business, cannot be overlooked. Travel and Tourism contributes c.£200bn to UK GDP annually. £37.1bn (GVA) of that is outbound travel, which directly sustained over 221,000 jobs up to the point of the pandemic. That is more than the entire wholesale and retail distribution of motor vehicles and more than the UK iron and steel or electrical equipment manufacturing industries. 41% of those 221,000 jobs were lost in the first three months of the crisis, and more are likely to have gone since.
The thought that outbound travel can continue to be ignored defies all logic. Whilst Rishi Sunak has spearheaded ‘life-boat’ style policies to support the wider economy, it is imperative that he, Grant Shapps and other policymakers in the Government acknowledge the travel industry as a strategically important national asset, and recognise that each sector, inbound, outbound, and domestic travel is interconnected and interdependent on one another.
As we face an important national juncture, with our government set to establish an industrial strategy fit for a post-COVID and post-Brexit world that will determine our future trading relationships with the rest of the planet, outbound travel and the entire tourism sector has a critical role to play.
That said, without the right support, policies and tax frameworks, this critical asset will not be around to contribute to the UK’s recovery and will result in an industry that is monopolised by Chinese and American mega-techs who will move everything online and overseas resulting in heavily restricted competition, limited consumer choice and the circumnavigation of UK taxation laws.
On behalf of the industry that my company supports, we urge the UK Government to provide targeted financial support packages to all sectors of and the supply chain within travel and tourism.
I kindly request that you review the industry report that Travelogix has compiled and included herein, which clearly and succinctly outlines the impact that the pandemic has had on travel. Once reviewed, I would welcome your support in highlighting to Government the immediate need for support that the travel industry has and I would be happy to line up meetings with senior leaders within the industry to support my call.
The travel industry is on its knees and historically is a proud and resilient industry, however; these current circumstances are beyond catastrophic. We need your help.
I very much look forward to your response, Mr Mishra, and thank you for taking the time to consider my communication to you.
Founder & CEO, Travelogix Ltd.