Advantage chief takes sideswipe at government ahead of Budget

The government has been accused of overlooking ‘easy wins’ that can be achieved via regulatory reform for smaller businesses in the travel sector in favour of more politically attractive measures.

The sideswipe came from Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said ahead of the spring Budget today.

She reiterated industry calls for a dedicated minister to oversee the outbound travel sector.

“A lack of meaningful action on the changes to regulation that our sector needs is magnified by the fact that outbound travel does not currently fall under the remit of one government minister,” Lo Bue-Said said. 

“Instead, responsibility is shared across several departments meaning that representation and visibility of the sector is diluted.

“Bringing responsibility for outbound travel under into the brief of a single minister in the Department for Transport would not only result in better representation, but a deeper understanding of outbound travel in the corridors of power.”

She praised the “resilient powerhouse” that is the global travel industry for shown its mettle in the fight to rebuild over the last 12 months after being “hammered’ by the pandemic.

“This success is attributed to the people that have worked so tirelessly across the industry’s eco-system, and it is them that should take the credit for the recovery and resurgence.

“We still have work to do to attract new talent to our sector and create a revived sense of job security and belonging for the people that will take us forward,” she added.

“Inflationary pressures have added to the melting pot of crises facing our industry. Energy prices have gone through the roof, and while government support is welcome it also constitutes only a portion of the issues at hand. A lack of specific considerations for SMEs has meant that many businesses are nowhere near being able to pay what they owe.

“Business rates reform has proved the Achilles heel of successive administrations, who can only flirt with the idea of real progress before settling on measures that are performative at best. Taking the time to deliver actual change would be a worthy exercise and would deliver compound benefits to the high streets up and down the country.”

Lo Bue-Said also warned that the debate over Brexit continues two years after the UK formally left the EU.

She said: “The UK is no longer part of the single market, nor do we have free movement of people, but it’s hard to believe that we are seeing the full benefits of our departure. 

“Brexit has given us a golden opportunity to free UK businesses from the shackles of regulation that tethered organisations to frameworks which felt alien and unnecessary, but progress has been slow and laboured. 

“If this can be addressed, our industry has the potential to grow and thrive like never before. As it stands, though, rhetoric and reality remain poles apart, and the UK is moving slower, not faster than it was before.

“The economic challenges facing the government are clear to see, and it’s understandable that their actions need to balance caution and opportunity. 

“That said, it is deeply frustrating for sectors such as ours, made up largely of SMEs that are run by committed and hardworking business owners, to feel like ‘easy wins’ that can be achieved via regulatory reform are being overlooked in favour of more politically attractive measures.”

She described Advantage members as being part of the backbone of the UK’s business landscape, serving their communities and delivering huge value to local and regional economies. 

“To see the opportunity for support being kicked into the long grass is a hard pill to swallow for business owners that have spent the last three years fighting for their survival,” Lo Bue-Said added. 

“This is not a question of wanting the government to take risky decisions during a period where stability remains important, but more urging it to make decisions based on real time, real life needs rather than electoral ambitions.

“While myriad challenges still remain, we must be positive and forward looking about what lies ahead and continue to be advocates for what can be achieved through strong policy making, collaboration with government and the hard work that we are renowned for.”   

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