Financial worries coupled with the responsibility of looking after employees have been a big concern for travel agency juggling the impact of Covid-19 on their businesses.

Emma Kayne, director of Kayne Travel, told Travel Weekly’s Mental Health Matters virtual brunch how she had to take on a second job which she is continuing “until business turns”.

Kayne, who lost her mum before Christmas and whose business is facing debts as a result of the crisis and travel ban, has kept both her two employees on the books.

“We’ve got to just stand firm, get on with this, and we will come through the other end,” she said. “My mum always said to me, ‘this is going to be the making or breaking of you, Emma’ – and I believe it will be the making and, in memory of my mum, I will make sure it is.

“We have got green shoots [of recovery], let’s make them into oak trees as fast as we can.”

Sandra Corkin, managing director of Oasis Travel in Northern Ireland, noted the difficulty of working out how her staff who are currently furloughed will return to work.

She said it was tough to reassure staff when taking a phased approach, but she had to balance that with what the business can afford. “The only reason that it’s like that [staff coming back in phases] is purely down to money and affordability,” she said. “I would love to bring everybody back. If we had the money to do it, we would.”

Natalie Holder, trade partnership manager at cruise line Hurtigruten, said bigger companies should look at what they have to offer their employees in terms of mental health.

“These are unprecedented times; none of us could have guessed half of what we’ve all experienced,” she said. “But if this is what we can all get through, then let’s take this as our base, learn from this and see what we can do to improve for anything else that life throws at us.”

The Mental Health Matters Virtual Brunch also saw a second panel discuss the mental health considerations that have been put in place in travel businesses. The government’s mental health ambassador, Dr Alex George, also spoke at the event.

This is the latest instalment in Travel Weekly’s Mental Health Matters initiative, which offers resources, coverage and information.

Help and support

If you, or someone you know, is affected by mental health problems, and you need further support or advice, contact the Samaritans free of charge on 116 123.

The Mental Health Foundation has a portfolio of resources on how to look after your mental health during the coronavirus crisis.

Abta LifeLine offers services including counselling and support.