Airport Angels, providing Meet & Assist services at UK airports sits among so many sectors of the Travel & Tourism industry which puts us in a prime place to look at how Covid has impacted on these. We meet passengers from flights, so aviation is the key component of our business, we meet business travellers and VIP clients whose bookings often come from Travel Agencies, DMC’s, taxi and chauffeur companies and Tour Operators. Our services extend to providing check-in services on behalf of Tour Operators, Cruise companies and School Travel Operators, many of these involve connections with the coach industry. We are dependent on the success of all these sectors who are currently fighting for the government to throw them a lifeline during their greatest crisis in history.
Not only are we linked to all of the above, large volumes of our work comes from Language Schools, Guardianship Companies, Boarding Schools and Universities who, like the travel industry sectors have been left behind with little mention of the massive impact Covid_19 has had on their businesses and the associations that endorse them.
Where is our airport testing? With 30 countries now having airport testing in place why are we dragging our heels? Quarantine is not only slowly killing the desire to fly as this list grows but it is making life increasingly difficult for international students (who are very close to our heart) attending UK Independent schools and universities to return to the UK for their studies. 44,300 students are set to start their studies at our universities, a 9% increase on 2019, this shows the underlying strength of our higher education system and yet the work that is going into enabling them to jump through hoops to get here is not recognised, we know, we are providing many Meet & Greet services at Heathrow for them. They are facing barriers with their visa processing, restrictions on travel due to limited flights and increased prices and then the finale of dealing with quarantine when they arrive. Both the university staff and Guardianship organisations are all working round the clock to arrange host families and accommodation options for 14 days quarantine for these young people flying across the world for their education.
As a link in the huge chain of these business it is so difficult to measure the number of people that are involved in providing each step for each and every trip, excursion, flight, transfer, ground operation, holiday, tour, study trip and the list goes on. Without the Travel Industry doing what it does best the worlds busiest global industry is on its knees, the first industry to be impacted and the last to recover.
All of us in the travel industry are intricately connected yet independent in what we do but we are part of a huge family. Travel people are more often in the industry for life, I started in a travel agency at the age of 16 and 36 years on proudly have my own business which relates to virtually all parts of the industry. Seeing the groups that have been formed on social media to personally support our industry professionals as so many of them are seeing their life in travel cut short is soul destroying.
The UK is lagging behind and cutting business off by effectively blocking the desire to travel for everyone. The government is not prioritising Travel & Tourism enough to find a solution to the current situation. UK Inbound tourism is the fastest growing tourism sector bringing in the region of £25 billion per annum into the UK. In 2019 40 million overseas visitors came to the UK placing us 8th in the UNWTO international tourist arrivals league. This coupled with 93.1 million visits overseas by UK residents in 2019 takes us back yet again to ask why we have been side-lined by the government and continue to see no evidence in terms of practical or financial support for an industry that the world cannot afford to be so broken.