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Agent Diary: ‘There is a light shining at the end of this very long tunnel’

I’m ready to leave behind the virtual world in June and get back to what we do best, says Thompson Travel owner Sharon Thompson.

If I hear the word ‘virtual’ mentioned for a long time after the hoped‑for end of lockdown on June 21, I may truly crack.

While it may be the way to go for some things, it’s not for all. It’s true we can all rethink our businesses going forward, and carefully consider whether we need to meet someone in person for everything. But nothing beats ‘reading’ someone when they are in front of you, whether that’s to discuss a business proposal or sell a holiday. Getting dressed and separating work from home is also important.

As an independent travel agent, we’re all about customer service, relationships and repeat business (some of which extends three generations). I’d prefer that any day to a faceless or screen-dependent business. I even hate those partitions in some shops and banks that feel like barriers and make me feel the business is less approachable.

Better days ahead

But since last week, there is a light shining at the end of this very long tunnel – a real vision of better days ahead.

I don’t know about you, but my tummy changed from churning to a bit of a flutter at the thought I will be celebrating a significant birthday on June 22. Boris knew I needed this.

If you’ve missed out on your birthday celebrations this year, let’s have a real party with real people, giving real hugs and enjoying life together again.

“I hope our industry doesn’t fall foul of an assumption that everything is suddenly rosy again in travel and government doesn’t forget our plight.”

There’s much to be said for the vaccine rollout and, credit where credit is due, they have done so well getting those jabs sorted. In the past, I’ve probably had every vaccine needed to travel, so my arm will be ready when I’m called.

The prospect of visiting a relative, friend or another country is in sight. I can’t wait to visit new places and enjoy a bit of sunshine – that’s what was so sorely missed last year.

But I’m wondering if recent reports of massive surges in bookings due to the roadmap announcement and vaccine rollout are quite as true as they are portrayed. Vaccine or not, this industry isn’t going to recover like a hairdresser or pub. Vaccine passports won’t happen that quickly. I hope our industry doesn’t fall foul of an assumption that everything is suddenly rosy again in travel and government doesn’t forget our plight.

Victory over Virus

I have to admit I’ve been tempted to let the virus beat me, to either give up or change career. I’ve panicked, been anxious, cried, lost sleep, got angry and felt for my travel partners. I’ve made redundancies.

Then I remember that I’ve run this company for 26 years, so I won’t let one or two bad years ruin everything we’ve worked for. My worry was about trying to control things I’ve no control over, instead of controlling what I could.

“I’ve run this company for 26 years, so I won’t let one or two bad years ruin everything we’ve worked for.”

In the past year, I’ve been more active and discovered more of my surroundings. I’ve also taken an online accountancy course, installed a new back-office accounts system and learnt more about every aspect of my business. These are all things I never made time for before.

Now, though, I’m ready to get back to what we do best.


SHUTTERSTOCK-camera

Thompson hits the small screen

I am proud to announce that Thompson Travel has been chosen to take part in a nostalgic BBC documentary focusing on 60 years of holidays in and out of Northern Ireland. We will be featuring in a section about the most-recent 30 years as a third generation family business. It will be a relaxed sofa chat about our own holiday experiences and how travel today compares with when I was a kid. Filming has been fun, within the restrictions, and it has given us a bit of positivity. We’ll keep you posted on dates so you can enjoy a laugh at our memories, from caravans to safaris.

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