BROADENING OUR HORIZONS - Harold Goodwin

haroldgoodwin.info

BROADENING OUR HORIZONS - Harold Goodwin

TRAVELMATTERS…Travel and tourism is the UK’s fifth largest industry. It employs morethan 2.5 million people throughout the UK and contributes more than£19 billion to the UK economy.To keep the travel industry on top,we’re asking government to:Reform consumer protection– so that everyone travellingon holiday is protectedSafeguard jobs in travel and tourism– by avoiding punitive tax and dutiesReplace APD with a per plane duty– to encourage economic andenvironmental efficiencyFor the background to these issues,download the ABTA Manifestofrom www.abta.comBuilding confidence in travelwww.abta.com


supplementtravel and tourism“As MP for Weston-Super-Mare I recognise how importantit is to this country, and I have seen what it does fora community.”He denied accusations that outbound travel isnot part of his brief, and isaware of key issues to beresolved. The reform of financialprotection for holidaymakers,for example, isalready on his agenda.But the issue of taxationwill be a thorny onefor Mr Penrose if the governmentcontinues to viewtravellers as a soft target –New tourism minister, JohnPenrose: “Tourism has beenignored for too long”George Osborne’s decisionto continue with Labour’siniquitous increase in AirPassenger Duty in November has done nothing to assuagesuch fears. The small print of last week’s Budgetsuggested further increases are on the horizon.Hopes of increased airport capacity have been extinguishedas Mr Penrose reaffirmed the government’scommitment to block the third runway at Heathrow andany expansion at Gatwick and Stansted. He maintainsthat better use of the space at existing airports, and the expansionof high-speed rail, is the answer.But he is also pragmatic. He realises that Britaincannot compete head-on with traditional beach destinationsand instead sees heritage, culture, nature and sceneryas the reasons to holiday at home. He pledged to put theneeds of holidaymakers first and asks for time to get togrips with the issues before trying to make a difference.“The proof will be in the pudding,” he said. But atleast by listening to the issues at hand, he has served up adecent starter.charles starmer-smith outlines the Daily Telegraph’s campaign against air passenger taxationIt is rare that any issue unites the disparate sectors ofthe travel industry but opposition to Labour’s continuedincreases in Air Passenger Duty (APD) achieved justthat. Tour operators, airlines, passengers, tourist boardsand environmental groups looked past the government’s‘green wash’ to see these rises for what theywere – shameless revenue-raising measures introducedin the name of helping the environment.By the end of this year the tax will have increased byup to 325 per cent in just six years – leaving a family offour flying to Caribbean facing an APD bill of some £340– yet not a single penny has been directed towardsenvironmental causes.Motivated by the iniquitousness of this tax, theanger of our readers and the apparent apathy to travellers’interests at Westminster, we launched our petitionagainst APD in the autumn, garnering more than45,000 signatures.June’s Budget announcement has left the travelindustry in limbo. The coalition is to press ahead withthe rises in APD* at a time when the industry has neverbeen under greater pressure. But it has confirmed thatit would ‘explore’ changes from a ‘per passenger’ to a‘per plane’ duty. Any reforms would be preceded bypublic consultation.While any move to a ‘per plane’ duty should bewelcomed – it rewards airlines that operate with highload factors – it should be done with caution. Buriedin the small print of this Budget, the Treasury states itsintention to raise £3.8bn from air travel in 2014-15, upfrom £1.9bn in 2009/10.For evidence of the potential impact of this taxincrease, look to Holland. Last year the Dutch governmentabandoned its equivalent of APD. It had broughtin more than €300m in revenue in a year, but the widercost to the economy was estimated at more than€1.2bn.Likewise, no mention has been made of reformingthe controversial banding system used to calculate APDcontributions (the distance from London to the capitalcity of the destination) that sees passengers travelling toHawaii paying less duty than those flying to Barbados.Premium cabins, too, are also disproportionatelypunished, with passengers paying £170 on a flight tothe Caribbean – the same as those in first-class. Meanwhile,passengers on private jets remain exempt frompaying any APD.The prospect of further rises has horrified the aviationindustry. “Our fear is that any restructuring willbe seen as an opportunity to take even more tax frompeople who fly,” said Michelle di Leo, spokesman forthe aviation lobby group, Flying Matters. “The rises inNovember are already eye-watering; the small print inthe document suggests there is even worse to come.”* From November, APD will rise from £11 to £12 on flights of upto 2,000 miles; from £45 to £60 on flights between 2,001-4,000miles; from £50 to £75 for 4,001-6,000 miles, and from £55 to £85for anything further.The House Magazine • july 2010 7


supplementtravel and tourismvoyage of experienceTourism changes lives, creating employment and opportunitiesboth in the UK and abroad, writes Harold GoodwinThe choices we make when we travel, and about our about those family holidays you had as a child.holidays, make a difference. When we travel away The way our citizens, and our companies, behavefrom home on holiday, or for work, we have new abroad shape international perceptions of us. Legislators8 The House Magazine • july 2010 experiences and the opportunity to learn about someoneelse’s place. Travel can open our eyes or reinforce ourprejudices; it can provide recreation and re-energise us;and we can take from our destination, or put somethinghave been sufficiently concerned about the behaviour byUK citizens abroad to legislate on paedophilia and footballhooliganism. Decisions made in the House affectthe choices our citizens make about their holidays, andback by engaging with it.contribute to managing the social, economic and environmentalimpacts of travel and tourism.haroldgoodwinIncreasing numbers of us are volunteering andcontributing to good causes in destinations at home and The Foreign Office ‘Know Before You Go’ travelDirector of theInternational abroad through travel-related philanthropy; we see a advice has been developed, with the support of the industry,to help UK travellers prepare for their trip and toCentre for need, and we respond to it.ResponsibleTravel does create greater understanding of our travel well. ABTA’s work with ECPAT UK, developingTourismworld, its diversity and the challenges we face globally. the ‘Every Child Everywhere’ eLearning for industry,at LeedsIt can be a force for good. The choices we make determinethe impacts of our travel and holidaymaking. tion, as does ‘Accessible Travel Made Easy’, developedshows great responsibility on the issue of child protec-MetropolitanUniversityTravel and tourism is what we make of it. In turn, our by ABTA and supported by the Equality and Humanexperiences of other peoples’ places shape us – think Rights Commission.Travel can open our eyes: UK tourism is very important to the Gambian economy, but the ‘distorting’ effect of airlineduties favours travel to other destinations, says Goodwin


supplementtravel and tourismThe travel and tourism sector is notoriously difficultto get a grip of; it is perhaps best understood asthe market for holidays and travel, at home and abroad.Increasing affluence, paid holiday entitlements and advancesin transport have created opportunities for Britishcitizens and shaped their expectations. People expecta great deal of their holiday; it is valuable time, and mostyears it is their most significant single expense.The decisions of the House, and of government,shape the context in which people make their holidaydecisions. Broader economic changes affect them too.The decline in the value of the pound makes foreigntravel more expensive and encourages domestic tourismand the ‘staycation’.A period of austerity will shape the holidaychoices people are able to make. But sun is importantto northern Europeans and the annual short migrationto the sun will persist. This year there has been realgrowth in all-inclusives as UK holidaymakers protectthemselves against currency fluctuations. Holidayingand travel take place in highly competitive markets, onein which margins are generally tight. In a market sensitiveto small changes in market signals, and legislation,it is important to beware of unintended consequences;the devil is often in the detail.Air Passenger Duty (APD) was introduced as agreen tax with little or no consultation. Existing APDis not designed to encourage green behaviour; it createdno incentive for the industry to improve its environmentalperformance. Individual passengers pay the taxregardless of how polluting their flight is. Full aircraftpay more tax, yet a plane is a plane is a plane. Charter airpassengers flying point-to-point in full, relatively newand fuel-efficient planes, pay the same tax as those flyingin planes with more empty seats or travellers.A green tax would encourage travellers to fly withless polluting carriers. A new APD would be ‘greener’if the per-plane duty reflected the environmental performanceof the aircraft and the distance flown. Thedetail matters.Take The Gambia: UK tourism is very importantto the economy; research by the ICRT revealed that UKtourists in destination spend £24 a day locally outside oftheir hotel. That amounts to £14.4m, one third of whichgoes directly to the informal sector, the relatively poor.We need to be careful of the distorting effectsof APD which discriminates against The Gambia andadvantages the Canaries, and favours Hawaii over theCaribbean. Internationally tourists are significantly betterthan development agencies at spending money inpoor countries. Research the ICRT undertook for theUN World Tourism Organisation demonstrated thatfor many of the poorest countries, tourism is one of theirfew opportunities to engage in the world economy, andvital to their prosperity and sustainability.Tourism changes lives, it creates employmentand opportunities in the UK and in the places we visit.The industry creates livelihoods – it is time for therange of jobs it creates to be recognised, from kitchenporters to general managers; an industry of opportunitywhere many of those in senior positions workedtheir way to the top.“People expect a greatdeal of their holiday – it isvaluable time and, mostyears, it is their mostsignificant single expense”The ABTA logo is on every high street and isone of the best-known consumer guarantees in Britain;the brand has 74 per cent consumer recognition.Sixty years old this year, ABTA is more than Britain’sleading trade association for the UK travel and tourismindustry. ABTA was formed to represent the interestsof its members; its responsibilities have widened to includefinancial and consumer guarantees, health andsafety, and over the last seven years it has been leadingthe movement in UK outbound to take responsibilityfor sustainability.ABTA is also playing a major role in the developmentof a UK sustainable tourism strategy, retailingUK holidays, with UK champions in high street shopsand members like Superbreak and the Holiday CottagesGroup which are UK specialists. With internationalleaders like Thomas Cook and TUI based in theUK, creating employment and generating tax revenueshere, ABTA is a leader in the Responsible Tourismmovement internationally.The TUI Group, Virgin, Kuoni and ThomasCook also bring tourists into the UK – it is an internationalbusiness.The House Magazine • july 2010 9


supplementTRAVEL AND TOURISMThe inaugural Travel Mattersindustry briefing took placeon Thursday 3 June 2010 inWestminster. It brought togetheran invited audience ofsenior travel practitioners aswell as national, consumerand travel trade media andpolitical influencers.“The word ‘turning-point’is overused, but sometimesit does describe where weare and I do believe thatthe travel industry is at justsuch a point as we meettoday,” said ABTA’s chiefexecutive, Mark Tanzer.ABTA’s vision is for aprosperous and sustainabletravel industry. “Our vision isambitious, demanding andnecessary, ” he said.Tanzer’s points focused onthree policy issue priorities:reimbursement for the costsof supporting British citizensstranded overseas due tothe volcano; the intendedAbove: Travel Weekly’s Lee Hayhurst (left)talks to Damon Wright from Grant Thornton.Susan Parsons and Luke Pollard fromABTA’s public affairs team talk to DavidBennett (right) from Saffrey Champness.Above: Bianca Williams of ABTA(left) chats to Katherine Wilsey ofthe Telegraph (centre)Left: Mike Greenacre of the CooperativeTravel Group (left) poseswith David Moesli from the CAA(centre) and Sandra Webber (right)from the Department of Transport.Right (l to r): Lyn Houghton,freelance journalist, Bill Gibbons ofPassenger Shipping Association,Ian Reynolds from Citybond Insuranceand Simon Bunce from ABTA10 The House Magazine • july 2010


supplementTRAVEL AND TOURISMBelow (l to r): Luke Pollard, ABTA; Sky PresenterMark Longhurst moderated the day; BenedictBrogan from the Telegraph gave the paper’s viewon the new political landscapereform of Air PassengerDuty intoa ‘per plane’ tax,which could maskadditional tax risesfor aviation, and theoutdated system offinancial protectionthat governs theindustry, which is“unclear, unfair anddoesn’t work”.The eventconcluded with aninformal lunch,providing a rareopportunity for theindustry and themedia to networkand mark ABTA’s60th anniversary.Above: Christine Farnish of Barclays Bankand ePolitix parliamentary editor Tony GrewAbove: Dermot Blastland, chief executive of TUI UKMark Tanzer, chief executive ofABTA: the travel industry is at a“turning point”.Mike Bowers of TUI (right) listens as Nigel Turner ofCarlson Wagonlit (left) outlines key industry issuesDoug McWilliams, from the Centrefor Economic and Business Research,predicts that Mediterraneancountries will leave the euroThe House Magazine • JULY 2010 11


supplementtravel and tourismmultimodal masterplanFrom airport duty to economic regulation, the government is determined to takean innovative approach to an industry of opportunity, says Theresa VilliersTheresaVilliersTransportministerFrom the jobs created to the communities connected,the life-changing opportunities air travel providesplay an important and positive role in our 21st centurylives. The aviation and airports industry is dynamic,vibrant and successful. But it is also operating in an era ofchallenge and change.First, there was the worldwide recession whichdented consumer confidence, cut passenger numbersand hit jobs and profits. Then, just as the economy beganemerging from the economic downturn, the Eyjafjallajokullvolcano in Iceland blasted millions of tons of ashinto the atmosphere. The eruption resulted in an unprecedentedrestriction of access to European airspace, leavingplanes grounded and passengers stranded.The intense debate on the environmental impactof aviation – both locally, in terms of noise and air quality,and globally, in terms climate change – is likely tohave far-reaching consequences for the industry. Add tothis difficult mix, the transformational impact of internetbooking, and that age-old saying, “may you live in interestingtimes”, could have been tailor-made for this sector.Yet, faced with testing conditions and difficultchoices, the people and the companies of the air travelbusiness are responding with fresh thinking and innovativeways of working. In my view, the steps we have takensince being elected demonstrate the determination of thisnew government to be equally innovative. I’d like to highlightjust four of them.Firstly, we have kept our manifesto promise to opposea new runway at Heathrow. Rather than press aheadwith a third runway, with serious negative consequencesboth for local communities and our shared environment,we want to integrate Heathrow into our proposed highspeedrail network. Not only would this offer a greenertravel alternative, it would also provide passengers with abetter Heathrow rather than a bigger Heathrow.Secondly, work is under way on assessing how to implementour policy on reforming Air Passenger Duty to encourageairlines to switch to flying fuller and cleaner planes.Major changes will be subject to public consultation.Thirdly, working with the industry and the CivilAviation Authority, we have drawn on the experience ofthe “ash crisis”. Our goal is to further improve the robustnessof the regulatory framework and strengthen the UK’sresilience and response in the face of major incidents.And, fourthly, the new government is committedto improving the passenger experience. That’s why, in theQueen’s Speech, we announced a bill to modernise theframework for airport economic regulation. It’s also thereason I will be chairing a newly established South EastAirports Taskforce made up of key players from acrossthe industry. This group will explore options for makingthe best use of existing airport infrastructure and improvingconditions for all users. The Taskforce’s initial focuswill be on action at our three biggest airports: Heathrow,Gatwick and Stansted.Whether it’s for business or leisure, tourism or trade,air travel is woven into our modern way of life in our increasinglyinter-connected and inter-dependent world. Soyes, I recognise that there is no shortage of challenges facingthe aviation sector. However, I am also convinced that,working together, this government and this industry hasevery chance of making real progress on these challengeswith confidence and success.Thousands of passengers were left stranded by the eruptionof Eyjafjallajokull volcano in April: the governmentaims to strengthen the UK’s resilience to major incidents,says Villiers12The House Magazine • july 2010


supplementtravel and tourismput in the back bedroomThe tourism industry is a great wealth creator but it requires the attention of acabinet-level minister to reach its full economic potential, says Lord PendryThe tourism industry has recently suffered a number of‘hits’, resulting in a series of high-profile and damagingheadlines. The Icelandic ash cloud incident wasprobably the worst – estimated to have cost the UK sectormillions of pounds – yet the outbound travel industry sectorcontinues to have a lack of influence in Parliament andUK travellers continue to suffer the consequences.As tourism is a business-related industry, it is ahuge provider of tax and employment, and in economicterms by far the biggest and most important componentof the Department of Culture, Media and Sport – oftenproviding the wealth that subsidises other components ofthat department, such as the arts. Successive governmentshave failed to create a specific department for tourism inthe past, which has resulted in a lack of co-operation andcommitment between other government departments.In a recent article, in the British Hospitality Association’sannual report, the chief executive states thatthere has been an “inability of governments in the last 13years to take tourism seriously”.However, in actual fact, it has been far longer thanIreland’s minister for tourism, culture and sport, MaryHanafin: the sort of portfolio Lord Pendry would like to seethat. The tourism industry is one of the largest in generatingeconomic activity and employment in this country.According to figures from Deloitte, the direct contribution[of the visitor economy] is £52bn in terms of GDP,which equates to four per cent of UK GDP. And in 2009this directly supported approximately 1.36 million jobs,a total of 4.4 per cent of the UK workforce. (Deloitte,United Kingdom dashboard, 2009, p1).It is clear that opportunities within the industryhave been missed, and some argue that tourism maynever reach its heights without a dedicated tourism ministerof cabinet rank.I think those who advocate such a minister are unlikelyto succeed without tourism being allied to anotherimportant industry with equal claims for cabinet status. Ihave always advocated that tourism and sport are naturalbedfellows, as I believe that there are areas of sport, leisureand tourism which have many inter-locking synergiesand should be equally recognised by the government forthe economic powerhouses that they are and the furthergrowth potential that they offer. Now, with the 2012 Olympics,the UK tourism industry has even greater potentialto grow.According to the Tourism Alliance, there has alreadybeen a three per cent cut in funding for VisitBritainand VisitEngland, equating to around £1m and £300,000for the respective organisations, and this is in addition tothe 10 per cent decrease in the budget already incurred bythese organisations as a result of the 2007 ComprehensiveSpending Review.At a time where there are great gains to be madefor the UK economy with the investment and the raisedprofile of the 2012 Olympic Games, it seems to me thattourism funding should be protected and the industrynurtured, not limited by financial constraints which willbe detrimental to the UK economy.It is too early to take account of all of measuresin the emergency Budget which will affect tourism, althoughthe DCMS’ budget has been reduced by 25 percent over the next four years – which can only be badnews to the tourism and hospitality industries.lordpendryLabour peerand chairmanof the all-partyparliamentarygroup ontourismThe House Magazine • july 2010 13


supplementtravel and tourismCompression fatigueA squeeze on domestic connections into Heathrow could damage Scotland’s export growth andits potential to attract inward investment, writes Wendy AlexanderWendyAlexanderScottishLabour MSPfor PaisleyNorthCancelling Heathrow’s third runway has repercussionsfar beyond west London. Heathrow is full.On any normal day, its two runways operate at 99per cent capacity. The result – arriving aircraft are routinelyheld in holding patterns, departing aircraft get stuckin lengthy taxiway queues, passengers are frustrated andflights are delayed or cancelled in bad weather. Withoutadditional runway capacity, passengers will continue to endurethe delays and cancellations that, unfortunately, havebecome the hallmark of the Heathrow experience.It’s bad for business, bad for tourism and bad forthe environment. And it’s a terrible advertisement forBritain in the 21st century, particularly as many of Heathrow’srivals are pushing ahead with ambitious developmentplans. The British Chambers study, published in2009, found that a third runway at Heathrow would add£30bn to the UK economy.Heathrow is the UK’s only hub airport, servingaround 180 worldwide destinations. So opting to build moreairport capacity elsewhere in the South East, simply meansdomestic passengers from the rest of the UK will invariablyhave to collect their luggage and cross London to reachHeathrow for their onward international connection.Access to Heathrow is of particular importance tothe regions of the UK. More than 500 flights operate eachweek between Scotland and Heathrow, and over three millionpeople use the shuttle service every year. Scotland needsdirect access to the UK’s only hub airport if it is to competeeffectively. The consequences of not building the third runwayare already hitting Scotland’s competitiveness. BecauseHeathrow is full, airlines such as British Airways and bmi– which have traditionally operated feeder services fromthe north – are under immense pressure to switch their domesticslots to more lucrative long-haul services.We have already seen the effects of this, with a reductionin the number of early-morning flights from Edinburghand Glasgow to Heathrow, and the withdrawalof Heathrow services from Inverness and Teeside. Alreadyonly eight regional airports outside London have direct accessto Heathrow – this is down from 18 domestic routesinto Heathrow two decades ago. The squeeze on regionalaccess slots to Heathrow is real and sustained.Some suggest high-speed rail is an alternative. Isupport high speed rail. But the dedicated link to Scotlandwill be 20 years in construction. Until then it is not asubstitute for Heathrow. Others argue Britain’s regionalairports should offer more direct international routes. Thepast decade has seen a huge expansion of air services toand from Scotland. But no other part of the UK has thepopulation base – or the inbound potential – to supportthe wide range of international destinations that only aworld hub like Heathrow can offer.The message from Scottish business is that Heathrowis vital as the hub for transfer connections that back-upScotland’s pitch for inward investment and export growth.Yet we are already losing flight connections from Glasgowto Heathrow, and the competitive pressure on airlines toconcentrate on the most profitable international flights is agrowing threat to domestic connections with Heathrow.“The squeeze on regionalaccess slots to Heathrow isreal and sustained”High-speed rail is not the answer to our immediateconcerns if realistically it’s not even going to start its firstphase until after 2017. Pitching for direct flights is not theanswer either, as regional airports can never realisticallyexpect to have anything like the offer available at Heathrow.Scots may have to rely on Schiphol rather than Heathrowin future.In Europe, new runway capacity is clearly valued– Amsterdam, Barcelona, Frankfurt and Madrid have alladded at least one new runway. Meanwhile, China andIndia continue to develop new airport infrastructure at ablistering pace. What will the Westminster governmentnow do to protect and expand domestic connections toHeathrow to ensure Scotland is not gradually cut off fromHeathrow? Will it do more to reduce train journey timesto London on the existing West Coast Main line whilstwe await developments in high-speed rail? These are theissues the government must now address.14The House Magazine • july 2010


supplementtravel and tourismjewel in the hubWith plans for a third runway abandoned for the forseeable future, Heathrow couldbecome the heart of the world’s greenest transport network, says John McDonnellAs a local GLC councillor I convened my firstmeeting in the Heathrow villages against thethird runway in the early 1980s. For the nextthree decades both Conservative and Labour governmentssuccumbed to the powerful aviation lobby andallowed the airport to expand, reneging on commitmentafter commitment given in opposition that a limit wouldbe placed on the growth of Heathrow.The main objections to expansion at that timewere the impact of noise on West London and the creepingthreat of demolition of the villages surrounding theairport, resulting in a mass forced eviction of up to 10,000people from their homes.At that stage it was still a David-versus-Goliathstruggle with a local community squaring up to take onthe all-powerful BAA and airline companies, which hadeffectively dictated the transport policies of governmentsfor over 50 years. What changed the battle plan was theemergence of both a true picture of the impact of air pollutionstemming from the airport and, above all else, theissue of climate change, with a recognition of the growingcontribution of aviation to the threat to our planetfrom climate change.Increasingly the claims about the economic benefitsof the airport also came under scrutiny. Whilst theairport undoubtedly brought with it large numbers ofjobs, it also forced up local land prices, with the resultthat local manufacturing has moved out of the area andmany skilled jobs have been replaced with lower-skilledand less well-paid employment. The local economy becameunbalanced and almost totally dependent on oneservice sector. Any disruption or decline in that sectorjeopardises the whole local economy.Confident now that the battle against expansion ofHeathrow has been won, we can plan for the long-termfuture of the airport and its role in the integrated and sustainabletransport network that we now need to create.The future of Heathrow should be based upon placing itat the heart of the most modern green transport networkin the world, all aimed at promoting at every opportunitythe use of the least polluting forms of transport options.Heathrow can now play its role in minimising theneed to fly. By ensuring the development of high-speedrail links between Heathrow and the rest of the countryand Europe, most internal flights should become thingsof the past, and rail should continue to become the preferredoption for travelling to Europe.Where flying is the only option it means using ourexisting range of airports, in and surrounding London,more efficiently to avoid the polluting ‘stacking’ of airplanesabove our heads. Linking the South East and Londonairports of Heathrow, Stanstead, Gatwick, Luton,and City by rail would create a networked hub to maximiseexisting runway capacity to overcome stacking.“Heathrow can now focus onimproving the quality of thepassenger experience whilstin the airport”In addition, with the development of electric vehicles,we now have the opportunity to develop the leastpolluting public transport system to cater for passengerstravelling to and from the airport into the capital andother destinations.Instead of funding additional runways, the focusof investment at Heathrow can now be upon improvingthe quality of the passenger experience whilst in the airport.More pressure is also needed on the aviation industryto support the research and development of airplaneengines that minimise and eventually overcome theirpolluting impact.In an age when people are increasingly concernedabout climate change and the environmental impact oftheir activities, the opportunity is opening up for us ofmarketing a visit to our country as potentially the mostenvironmentally and ecologically sustainable transportexperience in Europe.johnmcdonnellLabour MPfor Hayes andHarlingtonThe House Magazine • july 2010 15


supplementtravel and tourismash flow crisisAndy Cooper asks why the travel industry was left to pick up the tab for recent, unforeseen eventsandycooperDirector ofgovernmentand externalaffairs atThomas CookBritish airspace was forcibly closed down in Aprilfor the first time since the end of World War IIas a result of the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokullvolcano in Iceland.This closure had a massive impact on airlines, airports,business travellers and holidaymakers across Europe.Unfortunately, during the five days the airspace wasclosed there were many pictures of customers strandedat airports around the world, leaving an impression thatmore could have been done to look after those people.Unfortunately, pictures can sometimes be misleading.Tour operators, like the Thomas Cook Groupand other ABTA members, immediately recognised theimportance of ensuring their customers were kept informedand well looked after during the crisis. Althoughthis resulted in significant costs for the company, thesewere not passed on to customers.The decision to close airspace was clearly a prudentone made by government and, whilst we may questionthe length of time for which the airspace was closed, wedo agree with the need for caution. However, is it rightthat tour operators should be expected to bear the full financialburden of the government’s decisions? This eventwas wholly unforeseeable and the cost of ensuring thatcustomers were looked after was massive – in the case ofthe Thomas Cook Group alone, it is £70m.We believe it is right and proper that governmentshould help the industry with this cost, and the industryis looking to ministers for a clear declaration of financialsupport, and to develop a long-term solution to ensure itdoes not get saddled with unreasonable financial burdensfor events entirely outside its control.a place in the sun for someConsumer protection rules have not caught up with changing holiday habits, says Dermot BlastlanddermotblastlandChief executiveof TUI UK plcExisting regulations for consumer protection arein an unholy mess. Conceived in the 70s, beforethe internet and low-cost carriers existed, they areoutdated and ill-fitting. The market has since evolvedand grown to four times the size.The question ‘Am I protected?’ produces complexanswers depending on how you book. Book a traditionalpackage holiday and you will be covered – but less than50 per cent do. If you book a flight only, charters can puttheir flights under ATOL, scheduled carriers don’t. Youwill have to rely on scheduled airline failure insurance, orcredit or debit card cover, but you need to check.The biggest confusion arises with the large growthin DIY packages. You may have booked a flight and accommodationwith the same company, which may ormay not be covered.Customers booking differently and yet experiencingwhat is essentially the same holiday will have differentlevels of protection. This is what happened with thethousands of customers of XL, which failed in 2008. Somewere entitled to refunds or repatriation, others were not.Clarifying current legislation has resulted in repeatedcourt actions and has seen the CAA fighting expensivelegal cases. Urgent action is needed.The proposals to cover all ‘flights plus’ business setout in the recent DfT consultation represented a real stepforward. However, it is not the long-term solution. TheUK government needs to decide whether it wants its citizenstravelling overseas by air to be financially protectedand the cost of repatriation to the UK be covered, shouldtheir airline go bust.If yes, then a simple and comprehensible solutiontreating flight-only and package travel customers in thesame way needs to be found. This has been recommendedbefore by the CAA but was lobbied against by airlinesnot currently covered.We urge this new government to look once againat this simple, elegant solution, trusting that with fresheyes and an open mind they will recognise the importanceof protecting UK citizens abroad.16The House Magazine • july 2010


supplementtravel and tourismsail of the centuryIt wasn’t exactly Dunkirk, but Stanley Johnson was glad to see the Royal Navywhen the Icelandic volcano eruption left him stranded in SantanderLord Palmerston was good at despatching the gunboats,which he famously did for a Portugese Jewliving in Athens, Don Pacifico, who (by virtue ofhaving been born in Gibraltar) was a British subject.HMS Albion was hardly a gunboat. As a matter offact, it is currently the second-largest vessel in the RoyalNavy, second only to the aircraft carrier Ark Royal in size.Its vast bulk loomed over the quay at Santander. And mywife and I, standing behind the wire-fence on the quaysideat Santander with about 60 other travellers lookingurgently for a passage home, were hardly distressedBritish subjects in a Palmerstonian sense. We had beentravelling in South America when the Icelandic volcanoerupted. We had got as far as Madrid airport on our returnjourney, only to find about 5,000 depressed passengerswaiting around – some for days already, it turned out– for information about how to proceed.Admittedly, Jenny and I had shown a bit of gumption.We had made a dash for the central bus station inMadrid and had bagged the last two seats on the busfor Santander, the Spanish port which lies on the coastaround six hours (by bus) due north of Madrid. Yes, wehad enjoyed a singular stroke of good fortune in the sensethat the HMS Albion had been dispatched to Santander atprecisely that moment to pick up 500 British servicemenand women who had been stranded in Cyprus on theirway home from Afghanistan.I was, however, fairly sceptical about whetherwe would, or even should be, permitted on boardthe HMS Albion. I didn’t see that the British governmentwas under any obligation to spend publicfunds to ‘rescue’ people like us who were quite simplyholidaying abroad and found themselves stranded.So when the British embassy man came out and explainedthat, alas, there was no room for our group because allthe spaces had already been allocated by the British Embassyin Madrid to several hundred ‘priority’ passengers,I couldn’t help thinking – irksome though it was – thatthe decision was totally fair.But then, miraculously, the Albion’s executive officer,Commander John Gardner, decided that there stillwas room for a few more, so all 60 of us were waved onboard at the last minute, and for the next 30 hours enjoyedthe hospitality of Her Majesty’s Navy.Towards sunset the next day, as we approachedPortsmouth harbour, I found myself being interviewedon my mobile telephone by a BBC reporter while a helicopterhovered overhead, filming the scene.Of course, I waxed lyrical about our good fortunein being in the right place at the right time. I praised thecaptain, the crew, the soldiers and sailors, even the weather– the Bay of Biscay is not often sunny and balmy, but itwas then. And I meant every word if it. But then the interviewerbowled me a curve-ball. Did I think, he asked,that this was “a good use of public money?”So I flannelled a bit. “You have to remember,” I replied,“that the HMS Albion had already been dispatchedto Santander to pick up the servicemen. The stranded passengerswere just piggy-backing, hitching a ride.”“I didn’t see that the Britishgovernment was under anyobligation to spend publicfunds to rescue people like us”I wasn’t wholly convinced by my own answer.Of course, there was a PR benefit to the Navy and they,rightly, made the most of it. It wasn’t a ‘mini-Dunkirk’by any stretch of the imagination. But it was a neatlyexecuted operation that certainly showed the Navy in agood light. That said, when George Osborne or LiamFox’s minions start totting up the cost to the taxpayer ofthe money spent ‘rescuing’ stranded British travellers, Iam sure they will find that the HMS Albion’s contributionadds up to a not inconsiderable sum.Am I going to send a cheque to cover any incrementalcosts my wife and I may have been responsible for? Myanswer to that is absolutely clear. If someone sends me abill, I shall give it my fullest attention.stanleyjohnsonJournalist andformer MEPStanleyJohnson’smemoir, StanleyI Presume, ispublished inpaperback byFourth EstateThe House Magazine • july 2010 17


supplementtravel and tourismJust the ticketMalcolm Harbour outlines how the European Parliamentis working to improve consumer protection rights abroadMalcolmHarbourConservativeMEP for theWest Midlandsand chair ofthe InternalMarket andConsumerProtectionCommitteePlanning, booking and buying a holiday has becomea very different experience over the past decade.It may now be second nature to book flights andhotels at the click of a button but 10 years ago package holidayswere the most popular form of travel, and entire holidayswere booked through high-street travel agencies.This change has been driven by an increase in competitionand the rise of internet-enabled technology, both ofwhich have had many positive effects for travellers and thetravel industry – driving down prices, reducing costs andincreasing choice. Unfortunately, not all the changes to thetravel market have been as positive for those holidayingabroad. Airline bankruptcies, adverse weather, industrialdisputes and ash clouds, have led to an increasing numberof passengers being stranded and grounded, sometimeseven without proper protection or compensation.Much of the legislation covering consumer protection,airline passenger rights and package travel has beenregulated at an EU level, given the cross-border nature ofthe activity. There have already been some notable successesby the European Parliament, including the adoptionof the Passenger Rights Directive, which has establishedeffective compensation mechanisms for those affected byairline delays, cancellations and overbooking. However,the continual changes in the travel market have renderedother important pieces of legislation out of date and oftenleft consumers out of pocket. This has not been lost on Europeanparliamentarians, who have consistently urged theEuropean Commission to bring forward proposals to ensurethat consumers are better protected when holidayingabroad. Finally, changes are now afoot.A reformed Package Travel Directive should comebefore the European Parliament and European Councilby 2012, after impact assessments and consultations. Thenew directive would extend some of the rights availableto package tour customers to those also buying elementsof their holiday package separately. This will be a difficultbalance to achieve, without making the booking processmore complex and also adding to holiday costs. The extraliabilities on carriers and hotels will have to be offsetby insurance cover. At the European Parliament plenarysession in Strasbourg earlier this year, the European Com-missioner responsible for consumer protection, JohnDalli, promised parliamentarians that restoring consumerconfidence in the travel market and setting a high level ofprotection would be priorities in the directive’s review.The European Parliament’s Internal Market andConsumer Protection Committee have also urged theEuropean Commission to ensure that consumers are notleft unprotected as the travel market changes to meetfuture needs. In the same public debate with the commissioner,committee members asked the Commission tothink more ambitiously about what protection consumersneed when holidaying abroad. Issues such as the safetyof leisure activities, and fire protection in hotels could besubject to more transparent descriptions and consistentstandards. More work could be done to ensure that consumershave the necessary information to make informedchoices when purchasing their holidays.“The new directive wouldextend some rights to thosebuying elements of theirholiday package separately”As well as contributing to consumer protection, anew directive would help improve the functioning of thesingle market, a point recognised by the European Parliament,which has been a consistent advocate of the internalmarket project. It will help drive competition into thesector and create a level playing field for businesses sellingtravel packages.So the European Parliament has been a vocal advocatefor consumer rights abroad, and parliamentarians haveplayed an integral role in driving forward the policy agenda.As the EU looks ahead for ways to help the single marketdeliver for the 21st century, it’s clear that travel has one ofthe greatest potentials for cross-border activity. Improvingconsumer welfare and business opportunities in travel is animportant part of driving the single market forward, andthe European Parliament will be making it a priority.18The House Magazine • july 2010


TRAVELMATTERS…Our industry is a power for good. It drives wealth and job creationin the UK and is an efficient and effective form of economic aidand wealth development for the destinations it serves. It recognisesits responsibility in our finite world and understands the importanceof thriving destinations.Building confidence in travelwww.abta.com


TRAVELMATTERS…Travel and tourism is more than an industry. It representsthe aspirations and experiences of millions of UK residents.And for 60 years ABTA and its Members have been here,working to high professionalstandards and offeringholidaymakers choice,value and security.Great serviceExpert advicePeace of mindBuilding confidence in travelwww.abta.com

More magazines by this user
Similar magazines