Travel agents protest outside Holyrood for more support

About 100 Travel Agents have demanded for support and airport testing.

Travel agents protest outside Holyrood for more support SNS Group

About 100 travel agents have staged a demonstration outside the Scottish Parliament building demanding tailored support for the sector during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA) organised the protest and said turnout would have been greater if not for Covid-19 travel restrictions.

The group also wants the country to be “leading the way” with airport testing.

Joanne Dooey, SPAA president and owner of three small travel agencies in North Lanarkshire, said despite Covid-19 issues the industry still had a “duty of care to its customers”.

She told the PA news agency: “The only support that our industry has had is the grant at the start for which we’ve got a premises so the majority of us got £10,000 or we maybe got £7,500 if we’ve got a second.

“Because of the industry we’re in we have to work to get people thousands and thousands of pounds of refunds back for customers … we had to fight to get people repatriated.

“We only make money when people travel, when their holiday gets cancelled we have to give the commission back – coffee shops haven’t had to give their profit back that they made last year on everybody that had a cup of coffee in their shop.”

She added: “Travel agents fall under retail but we’re a retailer with nothing to sell because we’re not allowed to sell holidays or trips obviously because of the ban on travelling and the quarantine situation – we’ve got a real nightmare.

“As for testing, why are we not leading the way like we usually do? Over 30 other countries have got a testing regime in their airports or resorts where you can get the results back within 20 minutes.”

Ms Dooey also told PA travel agents cannot access the furlough scheme because of their need to work.

While employees will get 80% – in the scheme that UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on Thursday would be extended until March – she said no other money coming in means high street shops will have to close their doors.

Ahead of a meeting with business minister Jamie Hepburn next week, Ms Dooey added: “We’re directors of our business so we’ve had no wages since March because there’s no profit coming in.

“It’s not about us wanting to get everyone out for two weeks in the sun, we’ve got people that have not seen their families, people living abroad that want to come back home but can’t.”

She added: “Quite a few agents have closed their doors in Scotland already, agents that have had enough after being there for a long time – it’s soul-destroying to see it happening.”

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Graham Simpson said: “The travel industry are crying out for urgent support and the SNP need to outline how they will support vital jobs and livelihoods in the sector.

“A robust testing regime at our airports should be at the heart of any plans, that will allow us to have a sustainable tourism industry when it safe to do so.”

“Rishi Sunak has stepped up again and delivered a further £1 billion for Scotland – that funding now must be delivered immediately by the SNP to our struggling airport sector to safeguard jobs.”

Mr Hepburn said: “While protecting public health must remain our priority, we do not underestimate the significant impact this pandemic has had and continues to have on the tourism sector, both outbound and inbound.

“We are engaging with the sector, including with the SPAA, in order to fully appreciate and understand the current challenges they face and will continue to do so in order to help support those businesses.

“We are doing everything we can with our limited powers to help businesses, offering support which now exceeds £2.3 billion in addition to the UK Government’s furlough scheme.”

The UK Government has been contacted for comment.

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code