Northern Ireland agency Oasis Travel has claimed more than £30,000 to help keep the business afloat during the latest lockdown.
The independent agency and Advantage Travel Partnership member has branches in Lisburn, Bangor, Holywood, Ballyhackamore and two in Belfast.
Sandra Corkin, managing director, told a Travel Weekly webcast how important it is to claim the money available to help plan for the coming months.
“The grant that we received during lockdown this time will be equivalent to us paying our salaries for a month,” she said.
“We got over £30,000 for this six-week lockdown period. We still have furlough and other things on top of that.
“We were also able to claim money from the various different councils within Northern Ireland. Almost every office has a different council.
“[We] can claim money for any things that we’ve done to the office, for buying our sanitisers. Some of the offices have got £2,500 so all of this adds up.”
She said being locked down is probably more beneficial than being under the previous restrictions because it means they can claim their grants and still take bookings and inquiries.
“I’m not sure that we’d be selling anymore if our shops were open,” she said.
“I don’t think there’d be a lot of people in our shops.
“We’re doing everything we can to get business in – the phones are ringing, we do have inquiries coming through our website.
“There’s no doubt about it, there is an appetite for people to make holiday arrangements, but it’s just a much lower percentage of what January would normally be.”
Oasis Travel is taking advantage of the furlough scheme and staff are working on a rota to cover inquiries to help keep costs down. She also reported friends of customers, who ould usually book direct, turning to agents off the back of recommendations.
“Our shops look as if they’re open for business: the shutters are up, the window offers are up-to-date, the windows are lit up with very clear instructions on how the customers can contact us,” she said.
“We are more active on social media than ever before and we’re also hosting virtual events.
“We have been continually engaging with our customers…hoping that when they will be [ready] they are thinking about us and a lot of the destinations that we’re talking about.”
Alan Cross, head of trade sales at Jet2holidays, said retail travel agents had been “hugely resilient”. “Their doors might be closed, but they’re open for business,” he said.