Agency boss complains over ‘laughable’ grant sum

A travel agency boss has issued a formal complaint to his local council after he received an Additional Restrictions Grant large enough to cover half a month’s rent.

Accrington-based Best Destinations owner Jon Haworth has sent a letter of complaint, including a Freedom of Information request, to Hyndburn Borough Council to understand why he received the “laughable” sum last month.

Businesses in the area cannot appeal Additional Restrictions Grants (ARGs), said Haworth, who claims his sales this winter have halved due to the pandemic.

Haworth, who worked with The Travel Network Group to draft the letter, said he wants to “try and get to the bottom of how the council got to that figure” but said he is “not holding my breath”.

In the letter, seen by Travel Weekly, Haworth outlines how Best Destinations has lost £150,000 in commission and refunded customers more than £1 million since March 2020.

He said: “We do not get paid until the customer travels and we’ve not got a massive amount of customers booked in [this winter]. I’ve been pushing our winter sales over the last couple of weeks to just make sure that we’re getting money in during this quiet period.”

Best Destinations currently has 131 customers booked to travel over the next four months, which will bring in around £10,000 into the business over that time. During the same period in 2019-20, the agency earned about £20,000 commission after 254 customers travelled.

Since Covid struck, Best Destinations has received £18,000 in government support.

Abta has been urging travel agents to apply for ARGs and flagged last month that there was £300 million of unclaimed support for local businesses in council coffers.

Although councils can decide which businesses receive ARGs, the government has encouraged them to support travel businesses.

According to government data, £2,345,634 has been paid out to businesses by Hyndburn Borough Council. An estimated £413,323 remains unaccounted for.

While industry lobbying efforts calling for sector-specific financial support were ruled out in the recent Budget, Haworth said: “I still think there should be some tailored support for the industry. It is like it has been done by design. Restrictions have been lifted at the quietest time of the year for the industry.

“Now we have to push for some last-minute holidays to get some extra funds in.”

Travel Weekly has approached Hyndburn Borough Council for comment.

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