Travel industry urged to ‘stop arguing’ on disruption

The head of inbound association UKinbound has appealed for the industry to stop “arguing with one another” over the causes of travel disruption.

UKinbound chief executive Joss Croft reported the sector has largely escaped the months of disruption at UK airports and more recently at Dover and Folkestone, but he said: “We’re all in this mess together.

He suggested “parts of the sector arguing with one another” does not help, saying: “Consumers don’t see the difference between parts of the supply chain.”

Croft said: “We’re not hearing from UKinbound members about problems at airports.”

And following the paralysis at the Port of Dover at the start of the school holidays in England last week he noted: “There weren’t problems coming the other way.”

But he said: “The traffic queues and media reports don’t send a good message.

“It’s not translating into people cancelling holidays and we’re not hearing of an impact on forward bookings. But all parts of the industry are affected if one part is. We have to bring everyone together.”

A survey of UKinbound members for the association’s latest quarterly business barometer found “some of the strongest confidence levels ever”, said Croft.

The research found four out of five businesses (78%) confident about the next 12 months, with two out five (39%) forecasting business would be on a par with 2019 levels this year and 15% believing it would be higher.

However, Croft warned: “The experience of the last two years is that things can go wrong. I’m worried about soaring energy bills, the cost of living and inflation.”

He believes VisitBritain’s forecast that international visitors should reach 60% of 2019 levels by the end of this year “is probably about right”, pointing out: “That is from zero business in March. Operators only had from the end of March to sell the season.”

One handicap is the government’s removal of EU ID-card recognition at the border from last October, which has left school and youth travel from Europe “down about 85%”, according to Croft, who said: “It has had a massive impact. It’s a real deterrent.”

UKinbound is in talks with the Home Office on the possibility of developing a ‘youth studies passport’ scheme which would allow under-18s entry with an ID card so long as the tour leader has a full passport.”

Croft said: “We’re looking to see if there is an alternative.”

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