Trade expects a sales rush after storm and snow chaos

The trade was predicting a “mini Christmas” this week as bookings bounced back after the worst weather in years caused widespread branch closures and thousands of cancelled flights.

Many agencies shut as the Beast from the East and Storm Emma hit the UK, triggering Met Office red warnings in Scotland, South Wales and southwest England.

Industry events, including the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association’s 88th annual dinner and The Travel Network Group’s annual Get On Board cruise conference, had to be postponed.

Tailor Made Travel, which closed its eight branches in Wales, said it lost about £120,000 in revenue after weekly takings fell from £150,000 to £30,000.

But chief executive Simon Morgan said footfall had surged since the storm and he was optimistic of recouping lost sales. “I am confident this week will see a sales surge to offset the drop. I’m hoping for a ‘mini Christmas’ and so far the shops have been rammed.”

Newell’s Travel, which shut all but two of its 11 stores in the southwest, suffered an emergency when a frozen pipe burst and flooded its Torquay branch in the early hours of Friday, damaging computers and the phone system.

The branch manager of Newell’s Travel in Hayle, Cornwall, was also caught up in the chaos on her way to catch a flight from Bristol airport and had to sleep on the floor at a local college.

Owner Roger Hawke said: “Hopefully business will return now the panic is over.”

Advantage head of commercial John Sullivan added: “The weather impacted sales, but we expect a bounce-back this week.”

Agencies put remote working systems and emergency hotlines in place. Barrhead Travel, which closed 32 of its 36 stores in Scotland, set up a 20-strong emergency support team to help clients affected by airport closures.

Chief executive Sharon Munro said: “The group worked tirelessly over a 48-hour period.”
The Travel Network Group’s 24-hour hotline rang “non-stop”, according to group membership services director Lisa Henning.

“The biggest challenge was getting people to the airport. We had to rearrange flights and hotels,” she said. “In one case we had to call a policeman on the roadside who was helping a client in her car as her phone battery had run out.”

The group saw a spike in calls to its homeworking division, Independent Travel Experts, and increased footfall to shops from people who were off work.

Thousands of flights were cancelled and delayed nationwide. Glasgow and Edinburgh airports both closed on Thursday, as did Travel 2’s Glasgow call centre.

Fallout from the snow

Closures: Barrhead Travel shut 32 shops; Newell’s Travel shut nine; Tailor Made Travel shut all eight branches.

Financial hit: Advantage Travel Partnership saw sales dip last week. Tailor Made Travel estimated revenue fell by £120,000. But The Travel Network Group said it had not seen a sales dip, with increased calls to homeworkers and more footfall to branches still open.

Damage: Burst water pipe at Newell’s Travel in Torquay caused flood damage.

Stranded clients: Agents liaised with clients stuck on roads and at home, rebooking flights and hotels. The Travel Network Group’s 24-hour hotline was inundated. Barrhead Travel set up a 20-strong support team of staff to help affected clients.

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