The upcoming four-week England-wide lockdown has split trade opinion between agents who say it will make little difference and those who feel “the lights have been turned off” as sales picked up.
After Saturday’s annoucement of a lockdown from November 5 until at least December 2, agents had to rearrange staff plans and contact customers booked to travel this month.
Many said the short notice had caused frustration, while Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said said agents’ businesses were “back to square one, where we were in March”.
Agents who welcomed the lockdown – and closure of non-essential retail – said it gave a “clear message” for the next month and access to much-needed grants, particularly in Tier 3 areas where retailers still open had not received financial support.
World Travel Lounge, which has permanently closed one of its branches in the northwest due to the pandemic, will receive £2,000 per month for each of its remaining five stores while they’re shut.
Managing director David McDonald said a lack of new bookings meant it was “cheaper to be closed” and staff would no longer have to keep up with changing travel restrictions.
He said grants would “help us to cover fixed overheads” while shut and “we won’t have that dreaded 5pm Thursday feeling followed by calls and a mad panic”.
Deben Travel owner Lee Hunt admitted: “At least we know where we stand for the next four weeks.”
Bailey’s Travel managing director Chris Bailey said: “There is no business, so lockdown is the best solution.”
But some were angered by the timing, with lockdown starting two weeks after the Canaries and Maldives were granted travel corridors.
Pole Travel director Jill Waite said: “It’s a farce. Why open up the Canaries and the Maldives for us to have to cancel bookings just a week later?”
Miles Morgan Travel chairman Miles Morgan said: “October was our best month since March. We were picking up more lates, giving us immediate cashflow. Now they’ve turned the lights off. ”
He raised concerns about the impact on consumer confidence, suggesting people would now think “it’s best not to book at all”.
Advantage Travel Partnership leisure director Kelly Cookes called on government to provide an “exit plan” so businesses could plan, warning a “frightening amount” of agents would run out of cash by the end of the year despite having plenty of forward bookings.
Protected Trust Services head of marketing communications Jacqui Cleaver added: “Agents are exhausted.”