Off Broadway Travel highlights financial and traffic light issues with Shapps

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has told staff at Off Broadway Travel that he will raise travel industry concerns with the chancellor about sector-specific support and extending the furlough scheme.

He visited the agency for half an hour on Friday afternoon (July 16) because it is in his Welwyn Hatfield parliamentary constituency.

Shapps was initially invited to ‘see what a travel agent is’ by the agency in early May after his comments suggesting agents were a thing of the past.

Natalie Bennett, partner at the agency, met the minister along with fellow partners Tricia Conroy-Smith and Paul Rice, and personal travel specialist Mark Beattie.

They raised the issue of financial support and extending furlough beyond September, because travelling had been deemed illegal, said Bennett.

“We asked if staff can work on furlough rather than being off; we need more staff but cannot afford to have them,” she added.

“We also asked why hairdressers could get grants of £18,000 but we could only get one for £2,300.”

They highlighted the problem of traffic light updates being announced on Twitter, and he explained that was the best way for him to get the news out to as many people as quickly as possible.

“He cannot tell the industry beforehand as it would be leaked; it has to come from him,” she said.

They also spoke about passenger locator forms and he explained they are checked automatically when travellers’ passports are scanned at airport arrivals halls.

“He took everything on board, he listened to us and it went well. He appreciated that travel had been made illegal and said he would talk to the chancellor,” said Bennett.

“We feel it went well; he did not rush us. We will now email him with all our key points and wait and see.”

Based in Welwyn, the agency is a member of The Travel Network Group and The Specialist Travel Association, Aito.

After the meeting, the shop tweeted: “A very productive meeting with @grantshapps today our local MP. Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to listen & understand our sector. #aito #savetravel #welwyn #offbroadwaytravel”

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