Abta leaders have met trade minister Nigel Huddleston to stress the need for youth mobility and a seasonal workers’ scheme to ease some of the industry’s labour issues.
Chief executive Mark Tanzer and director of public affairs Luke Petherbridge held the meeting with Huddleston on Tuesday. Huddleston knows the industry well having been tourism minister from February 2020 to September 2022 and head of travel at Google UK before entering Parliament in 2015.
Petherbridge noted an Abta report in June found the number of UK workers in the EU had fallen by 69% since Brexit and said: “Labour mobility is one of our two priorities.”
He said: “We’ve detected a shift in the government attitude on mobility. It has been more positive about bilateral discussions [with EU members], particularly France.”
Petherbridge added: “Our second major policy piece is education. Existing educational courses are being defunded so the industry needs to come up with an alternative.
“We convened an industry working party in May and there is an option available, but we need to get new qualifications approved.
“We’re working with two education providers and building to present new qualifications next year. We need to tie down the details by February for approval next summer.”
In addition to these priorities, he said: “Our main political engagement is on the value of the industry.”
An Abta report last November estimated the value of UK outbound travel at £49 billion, and Petherbridge said “we’ve made that point to interim tourism minister John Whittingdale” – in post since May as maternity cover for Julia Lopez.
Petherbridge argued: “The value of the November report is that we’re able to show what travel means in every constituency. The industry’s value will be part of our activity at all three political party conferences and at all our meetings with MPs and candidates in the next year.”
He insisted: “An important part of our messaging is the importance of high street agents.”
Abta is planning round-table discussions at the Conservative and Labour party conferences and a parliamentary drop-in session for MPs and peers with the Tourism Alliance and inbound association UKinbound on September 12, followed by a series of regional round-tables with MPs and parliamentary candidates.
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