The boss of Britain’s corporate travel industry body has warned that one in every two jobs in the sector is at risk due to the government’s blanket quarantine plans for all incoming travellers, City A.M. can reveal.
Speaking at the Business Travel Association’s (BTA) annual conference, which was held virtually, Clive Wratten said: “Our government is not listening carefully enough to the grave challenges our sector is facing. They need to wake-up quickly”.
He also said that the government should extend its job retention scheme for the industry beyond October, when it is set to end.
The BTA represents organisations with 14,500 employees in the UK.
“Extension will be both a saviour for our industry’s jobs and a solid investment in much needed growth”, Wratten added.
“Put bluntly – I, you, this government – and our economy – cannot allow the destruction of our industry to be a lasting legacy of Covid-19”.
The BTA has been pushing the government to set up business travel corridors to allow executives to sidestep the current quarantine rules, which currently mean all those incoming to the UK must self-isolate for 14 days.
The plans have come under heavy criticism from business groups and MPs alike, who have warned that they risk severely stunting the UK’s chances of recovering from the pandemic.
In a letter to home secretary Priti Patel and transport secretary Grant Shapps, Wratten laid out the measures, arguing such travel corridors were vital for reigniting the UK economy after the coronavirus pandemic.
Although it was widely reported last week that the government is set to announce “air bridges” to some countries in the coming days, Wratten stressed that it was crucial that the travel corridor measures did not just focus on tourism.
“Yet, we have had to be clear that [Patel] should not confuse leisure tourism with the business services that we provide”, Wratten said.
“Business travel is a year-round constant for our economy, it is not subject to the peaks and troughs of leisure tourism”.
Hong Kong, Paris, and Amsterdam should all be included under the air bridge plan, he said, warning that “without effective and focused business travel we will jeopardise the £220bn our industry contributes to UK GDP each year”.
The rise of video conferencing tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have led many to question whether business travel will return in the same form after coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
Heathrow Airport boss John Holland-Kaye told City A.M. that he expected business travel to be the last part of the aviation picture to return.
He did, however, insist that it would return, saying that demand would still be there after the crisis.
Wratten echoed Holland-Kaye’s words, saying: “I remain positive that in the months ahead, business will return to travelling and slowly begin to broker deals face-to-face once more”.
The Department for Transport spokesperson said: “International travel corridors remain an option under consideration by the UK Government, not established policy.
“Conversations take place regularly with governments around the world on a whole range of issues and we will not be providing any further details at this stage”.