The industry is in for a tough 12 months with “no return to normal” and may have to live with reduced demand for years, dnata Travel Europe chief executive John Bevan has warned.

Dnata is in the final stages of making hundreds of redundancies, and Bevan told Travel Weekly: “The next two to three years are going to be extremely difficult. We’re going to have to learn to live with Covid.

“It’s very sad for people who have left or are leaving – I didn’t come into this to get rid of people. [But] we’re certain life will not return to normal for a while. Next year will be tough. We hope business will be half of last year’s and we’ll see a decent recovery the year after that.

MoreDnata Travel would not have taken July bookings had it known of corridor changes

“We’ve taken a lot of cost out. We’ve restructured – we were restructuring anyway, but we went in a lot harder.

“We have shrunk the business as far as we can and, as and when business comes back, we’ll rebuild.”

But Bevan warned: “The volume of travel will change for ever. We got to a place in the UK where travel was something everybody could afford. This [crisis] has made a lot of people think. Some of the emails I’ve had about refunds have made me think ‘can people really afford this?’”

He suggests: “People will [regard booking] travel differently. They’ll think ‘something will crop up and I’ll be left waiting for my money’.”

Bevan declined to confirm how many UK jobs at dnata Travel would go but said “in the hundreds”, with “redundancies across the board, from top to bottom, from senior management to call centre staff”.

He said the merger of Global Travel Group with The Travel Network Group should complete this month and the merger of Travel 2 with Gold Medal remains on course.

Bevan said: “We’ve restructured the whole of the UK dnata business and are simplifying a lot of systems.”

Despite the tough times ahead, Bevan said: “We’re ahead for 2021 even if you take out re-bookings. Fingers crossed they will let people go. For winter, it’s down to what will be open. If the Canary Islands reopen, they will be very popular.”

Bevan will be sharing his views at Abta’s Travel Convention on October 14, which will be a wholly virtual event. A member of the Abta board, he said: “I’m really pleased Abta decided to run the convention this year – to throw up debate around what has happened and move the debate forward is really important.

“We’re at a turning point and Abta has a big part to play.”

He insisted: “A lot has to change. The landscape is going to change. Tour operators’ responsibilities have to change. The industry has to come together more.”

The Travel Convention: October 14, 2020 (09.00-17.00)
Brought to you virtually. Members £125; non-members £249

MoreDnata Travel would not have taken July bookings had it known of corridor changes