Industry leaders prepare for post-election engagement with new ministers

Industry leaders and public affairs specialists are looking to engage with ministers in the next government as soon as possible following the general election, with a raft of concerns they wish to see addressed.

The Labour Party is forecast to win the election, potentially by a landslide margin, but the first-past-the-post system means results may not wholly reflect the latest opinion polls.

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer told Travel Weekly: “Regardless of who wins the election, we need a step change to drive growth in the economy and improve productivity, and this has to be achieved in the face of the enormous challenge of climate change.”

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He said: “We need a government prepared to work with us to achieve a low carbon future, especially for aviation, and to promote urgent investment in new technologies and new fuels.”

The outgoing Conservative government had retreated on previous climate targets

Tanzer added: “We also need a government which understands the pressures businesses are still under following the pandemic, particularly given ongoing loan repayments – one which helps SMEs and works with local authorities to promote recovery of the high street.”

Travel and aviation were largely absent from the election manifestos of the two major political parties.

The Tory manifesto mentioned aviation only in passing in its proposals on climate change, pledging to “rule out any frequent flyer levy”.

The Labour manifesto had little more to say, promising only that: “Labour will secure the UK aviation industry’s long-term future, including through promoting sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) and encouraging airspace modernisation.”

However, the Liberal-Democrat manifesto pledged to take “steps to reduce demand for flying”, proposing a tax on frequent flyers and “a new super tax” on private jets.

The Liberal-Democrats also propose to apply VAT to first-class and business-class flights and to ban domestic flights where a rail service taking 2.5 hours or less is available – mirroring a policy introduced in France.

In addition, the party opposes expanding Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted or London City airports and would place a moratorium on any airport expansion until “a national capacity and emissions management framework” is in place.

The Lib-Dems would also require airlines to show the carbon emissions for domestic flights alongside the rail equivalent.

A senior industry figure told Travel Weekly: “We don’t agree with the Liberal Democrats on aviation, but we don’t believe these policies will see the light of day.

“We’re confident we can work closely with the new government regardless of the outcome.”

The source insisted: “We don’t think a landslide will make any difference. We’ll be looking to engage early and for the government to put forward policies that are right for UK consumers and right for the industry.”

However, the source noted: “Everyone will be sending in introductions as soon as ministers are appointed. But the early engagement will be between new ministers and their own departmental teams. The real work will start after the [parliamentary] recess.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer has indicated he will cut the duration of Parliament’s summer recess if he wins the election, and the source said: “Cutting the summer holiday [for MPs} seems sensible. There is an awful lot of work to do.”

Travel Weekly has previously reported the plans of the UK Outbound Group set up by Advantage Travel Partnership, Aito and Abtot to host an industry-wide meeting to discuss the sector’s political engagement after the election.

The group has invited industry leaders to attend a meeting at the group’s Westminster public affairs consultancy FTI Consulting in London on September 16.

Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said argued: “There is very little recognition of the economic importance of the outbound sector.

“We believe it’s vital for us to step up our activity to ensure the travel industry receives the recognition and support it deserves.”

She said the meeting would discuss efforts to increase political awareness of the sector after the industry was “completely overlooked” during the Covid pandemic.

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