Suffolk travel agents warn they face financial ruin as they march to Westminster

The Stubborn Mule team from Woodbridge at Westminster to protest the government pandemic strategy for travel

From left, travel consultant Caroline Dolby-Bingham, boss Liddy Pleasants, travel consultant Lee-Anne Douglas and sales manager Charlotte Hamilton of Stubborn Mule Travel at the Travel Day of Action protests in Westminster - Credit: Stubborn Mule Travel

Angry travel operators from across East Anglia were among those taking part in a day of action as the strength of feeling grows about their predicament.

Industry body Abta estimates 195,000 travel jobs have been lost during the coronavirus pandemic or are at risk.

Protesters gathered at Westminster to make their feelings known to the government and put pressure on it to reopen the sector and provide tailored financial support.

The industry is angry at how the government's "traffic light" system has been set up and believes that ministers have undermined it.

No viable major tourist destinations are on the quarantine-free green list, and the government has urged people to avoid holidays to locations on the amber list - which feature the main holiday destinations.

Hundreds gathered in London and others in Edinburgh and Belfast on Wednesday, June 23, to make their feelings known.

Liddy Pleasants, managing director of Stubborn Mule near Woodbridge, said: “It’s great to be here in Westminster today alongside representatives from right across the travel industry – as well as tour operators like us there are high street travel agents, cabin crew and airline pilots, people from every corner of the industry.

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"We’re here to campaign for the return of safe international travel. Here in the UK we have a world-beating vaccination programme that at present we are completely failing to capitalise on – we are being left way behind the US and Europe, who are managing to open up in a safe and considered way that allows unhindered travel for those who have been vaccinated. It is imperative for the UK to follow suit immediately.

"It is the only way to salvage something of the summer season, without which many in the industry face financial ruin.”

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Stansted owners Manchester Airports Group (MAG) joined the chorus of protesters with staff staging a day of action co-ordinated by aviation and travel industry trade bodies.

Staff at all three MAG airports - Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands - posted pictures of themselves on Twitter, to mark every single flight that would have taken off on June 23, 2019.

The airports group said just 124 aircraft will depart the three gateways, (Manchester 47, East Midlands 6 and London Stansted 71) on June 23 compared with 651 departures (Manchester 319, East Midlands 60 and London Stansted 272) before the pandemic struck.

An estimated 15,900 passengers (Manchester 5,600, East Midlands 600 and London Stansted 9,700) will pass through the airports’ terminals this year, compared with 216,151 passengers (Manchester 104,464, East Midlands 17,667 and London Stansted 94,020) two years earlier.

MAG has launched a legal challenge backed by a number of major airlines against what it claims is the government’s lack of transparency when making decisions about the countries categorised as red, amber or green in its traffic light system.

Chief executive Charlie Cornish said aviation had been hardest hit by the pandemic but said the government "does not appreciate its value to the economy or trust the system it put in place to enable international travel to resume".

“Despite holding back the recovery of an industry that supports more than 1m jobs and generates more than £2bn of value, there has been nowhere near the level of support offered to other parts of the economy," he said.

“The industry has been left with no option but to challenge the legality of this lack of transparency, and to protest against the stifling of our recovery through this day of action.”

The government is due to update its travel lists on Thursday and a "checkpoint" review of the rules for each tier is scheduled for Monday.

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