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Published on Tuesday, January 5, 2021

New multi-billion pound support package for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses unveiled


Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors will receive up to £9,000 per property in one-off grants to help them through the new national lockdown, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced today.

He also announced a discretionary fund of £594 million for other businesses that might be affected by the new restrictions, which come into force at midnight tonight.

Announcing the new £4.6 billion support package, Mr Sunak said: "Throughout the pandemic we've taken swift action to protect lives and livelihoods and today we're announcing a further cash injection to support businesses and jobs until the spring.

"This will help businesses to get through the months ahead - and crucially it will help sustain jobs, so workers can be ready to return when they are able to reopen."

Travel agents with shops are likely to be eligible for the one-off grants, which start at £4,000 rising up to £9,000 depending on their rateable value.

ABTA said it was watiing for details of the support package to be published so that it can assess what it means for travel companies. It had earlier called for targeted support for the travel industry, which has been brought to a virtual standstill once again by the new restrictions announced last night by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

TUI has cancelled all holidays due to depart from today and has started refunding customers. "We'll update customers due to travel from Wednesday 6 January until mid-February in the coming days," it said.

Customers will receive a refund or an incentive to switch to another holiday currently on sale. It is offeing customers up to 20% extra if their new holiday is more expensive. Those who opt for credit will receive an additional 10%. Customers who are already overseas can continue with their holidays, TUI said.

Jet2 and Jet2holidays have extended the suspension of winter sun flights to the Canary Islands, Madeira and Turkey until February 12.

EasyJet holidays says it is reviewing all holiday bookings. "We will be contacting customers whose holidays can no longer go ahead with the option of cancelling for easyJet holidays credit which can be used to rebook an alternative holiday, or customers can choose a full refund back to their original payment method."

It said it is taking an average 12 days to process refunds.

The latest lockdown in England will last at least until mid-February, according to Mr Gove. It will include a ban on leisure travel, including overseas holidays. Initial guidance published on says: "You can only travel internationally - or within the UK - where you first have a legally permitted reason to leave home."

Those currently overseas do not need to immediately return home, it says.

In Scotland, the lastest restrictions announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday, will be reviewed at the end of January.

An ABTA spokesperson said: "It's right, of course, that the Government takes steps to control the spread of the virus. But this needs to come with the right measures to support travel businesses which have little or no means of operating.

"For ten months now, many travel businesses have been unable to generate income - putting jobs and businesses at risk - and the latest Government measures mean this is unlikely to change soon.

"Yet, unlike other sectors such as hospitality, there hasn't been any tailored financial support from the UK Government to get travel businesses through the crisis."

ABTA pointed out that other countries, including France and Italy, have established targeted schemes 'in recognition of the unique challenges facing travel'.

"Similar recognition and support is long overdue from Westminster, and we urge Ministers to address this gap urgently," said ABTA.

Advantage CEO Julia Lo Bue-Said said the next three months will be 'incredibly hard' for agents, but she added: "We remain hopeful that the anecdotal feedback indicates some pent up demand which we hope will translate to a bounce back for the industry post-Easter.

"We are a resilient industry and we know the British public will want to travel as soon as it's safe to do so.

"What's important is they have the confidence to make bookings at a time of terrible uncertainty. The effective roll out of the vaccine is critical to the resumption of normal life and if this happens on schedule we could see confidence start to slowly return."


By Linsey McNeill, Editor (UK)

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