Travel agents in Wales have expressed disappointment at having to close due to Wales’ ‘firebreak’ lockdown but welcomed news of financial aid.
Non-essential shops in Wales will not be allowed to open their premises after 6pm on Friday until Monday, November 9. It is the first time since the initial lockdown in March that shops have had to close their doors.
The Welsh government has announced a package of measures worth £300 million under its Economic Resilience Fund to help affected businesses including a £1,000 grant payment to operating businesses covered by the small business rates relief scheme and a one-off grant of up to £5,000 for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses which have to close and occupy premises with a rateable value below £50,000.
Miles Morgan Travel has three shops affected, in Chepstow, Abergavenny and Monmouth. A dozen staff will now have to work from home until their agencies reopen.
Owner Miles Morgan said: “It’s not ideal; it’s step backwards and it’s disappointing. But if it gets us to the other side faster then I am in full support. A lot of our business is over the phone and we will go back to our tried and tested scheme of working from home.”
Ocky White Travel is based in Haverfordwest in Wales. Managing director Mark White said he too was “bitterly disappointed” by the Welsh government’s decision but welcomed news of funding help.
He said: “It appears the Welsh government is going to make some funding available so at least they are acknowledging the difficulties the trade is going through.
“This lockdown is not as daunting as March; we are not going to have the volume of issues to sort out that we had then. We are just praying there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
He said sales had dropped noticeably in the last two to three weeks in line with a rapid decrease in consumer confidence in travel.
Former Tailor Made Travel chief executive Simon Morgan, who re-acquired the premises and staff of Blue Skies Travel in Whitchurch, Cardiff, at the end of September, called the Welsh government’s decision “completely unnecessary”, adding: “The whole industry is tired of it.”
His four staff will have to work from home for the lockdown. He said: “Our whole system is entirely portable. The staff have been incredible; we will Zoom our way through the next two weeks and reluctantly close the shops and do what we have to do.”
Under the new lockdown measures hotels, pubs, bars, and gyms will also close and people will be told to stay at home to stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus and only go out to buy essential food, medicine, provide car or take exercise. The hospitality industry has branded the lockdown a ‘severe blow’.
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