It’s difficult to comprehend how those whose jobs are at risk are feeling, says Hays Travel’s Colin Burns

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote about the light at the end of the very long tunnel we had been in since early spring. Travel restrictions had been lifted and there was no need to quarantine from most major European destinations, so a tidal wave of optimism washed over us all as bookings came in not far off normal rates.

What a difference one announcement, one Saturday afternoon, can make. Now, once again, we find ourselves dealing with customer questions that we simply cannot answer with any certainty.

Of course, we should be used to it by now as there is a bit of a theme. You must stay at home, unless you cannot stay at home, in which case you should stay at home. Stay two metres apart unless you can’t, then stay one metre apart as long as it’s more than one metre. Go to Spain; don’t go to Spain. You get the picture.

Shouty customer

The vast majority of our customers have been philosophical about the situation and we’ve been able to work with them to sort alternative holidays. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had our share of the shouty ones too. Joanne had a customer who was angry we weren’t calling him every day with an update on his October holiday! Saying we have lots of other customers to see to doesn’t cut it with some folk. Joanne drew on her experience to handle the man with great tact, to the point that he was very apologetic when he left.

With some airlines still flying, we’ve had customers insisting on travelling to Spain and its islands. We make sure they’re aware of the latest FCO advice and entry requirements, and remind them that travelling will almost certainly invalidate their insurance. What more can we do? These customers must take the responsibility for themselves if they decide to travel.

Upset and uncertainty

During my time in the industry, I’ve been lucky enough to get through the likes of war, ash cloud and terrorism disruptions pretty much unscathed. But now, although I’ve expressed my sympathy for colleagues and friends in the wider travel community who have lost their jobs, I don’t think I fully appreciated the impact on those lives until the recent announcement of redundancy consultations at Hays Travel really brought it home.

The emotion during the announcements by our divisional managers and by John and Irene [Hays] showed just how much this decision has hurt them. Every shop will have at least one colleague whose job (and livelihood) is under threat, and it’s difficult to comprehend how those individuals are feeling. There has been anger, upset and that awful feeling of uncertainty.

In my branch, Val’s foreign exchange role is under threat. We’re all feeling for her and doing our best to keep up her spirits. Val is dealing with it the way she knows best – by booking a holiday to Turkey!

All of a sudden, having to deal with a shouty customer, keep up with the latest changes and constantly reassure clients all seems a bit trivial when set against the upheaval and uncertainty being endured by so many of our industry colleagues.


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Love clearly conquers all

Do you ever get the feeling that something is just not meant to be? Dane has been helping a customer with their wedding in Cyprus. They’d first booked it for last year with Thomas Cook but that was lost when Thomas Cook ceased trading. Dane then worked really hard to get it rebooked with another supplier for this year, but it was cancelled due to Covid.

So the couple opted instead for a local registry office and rebooked their honeymoon for Tenerife, but that was cancelled. I think most couples would have given up, but not this one; they’re now set to go on honeymoon to Crete, so fingers crossed for them. What is it they say about the path of true love?

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