Jacqueline Dobson outlines plans for SPAA presidency

Barrhead Travel’s Jacqueline Dobson has outlined her priorities for her upcoming presidency of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA).

Dobson, who will take over from Mike Tibbert, said she will push for greater long-haul flight capacity, as well as regeneration of the high street and more funding for training.

She said: “I want to carry on the good work that Mike’s already done in the past two years in terms of government engagement.”

Dobson, Barrhead’s president, has already spoken to Scotland’s first minister, Humza Yousaf, giving the opportunity to highlight some of the key issues.

“We had a brief chat on capacity, recruitment, and trainees and apprenticeships,” said Dobson.

“There was a report saying apprenticeships are down in Scotland, so we had that conversation. It’s definitely going to be followed up.”

Tibbert, who will hand the reins to Dobson in the new year, said the SPAA is now ready to move to the “thriving” stage and return to pre-pandemic performance levels.

As part of this effort, Dobson would like to see more air capacity to destinations including the US.

“We need more long-haul flying out of the north – there is a lack of it. We really do need more aircraft and more flights,” said Dobson.

She also wants to see town centres regenerated, pointing to recent research showing that one in six high street outlets are empty in Scotland.

“We need to look at a rates review, which I’m working on with the Scottish Chambers of Commerce,” Dobson said.

On training, she said more funding needs to be invested in courses and the number of places available.

Trading-wise, this year has been a successful one for Barrhead, Dobson said, stirring optimism about the sector’s next 12 months.

“We’re a resilient industry and we can overcome most things,” said Dobson.

“I think people still have that hangover from Covid and they still want to travel – you can see that in the numbers.”

Tibbert said business has held up despite the interest rate rises and the cost-of-living crisis, but he warned that these developments could yet affect the market.

“We’re hesitant about 2024 because we don’t know for sure – there might be a plateau,” he said.

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Photo: Mike Tibbert and Jacqueline Dobson at the SPAA Awards 2023. Credit: Paul Chappells

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