The prospects of a strong summer 2021 for travel agents in Scotland has “gone” according to the president of Barrhead Travel.
Jacqueline Dobson pointed out that schools north of the border return before those in the rest of the UK and said the timing of the relaxing of travel restrictions was not in time to salvage sales.
“The summer 2021 season has gone”, Dobson told Travel Weekly at a London event to welcome a delegation from US parent Internova.
“Schools go back in two weeks so we’re trying to capitalise on the lates market from an English perspective now,” she said, but stressed: “It’s a fraction of what it needs to be.”
Barrhead Travel has 52 wholly-owned stores and 36 managed partner stores in its network – the majority of which are in Scotland.
Dobson said sales of domestic cruises had been “good” this year, and “especially when the lines were sailing out of Scotland”.
And she said the group was selling more domestic travel than ever before.
“Our domestic sales were only tiny last year, but we’ve developed a whole new ‘Holidays at Home’ domestic programme, which, including the cruises around the UK this summer, has accounted for 30% of all sales,” said Dobson.
She added that the company had been able to retain more than 90% of bookings cancelled due to the pandemic but said some clients had cancelled and rebooked “five or six times”.
And Dobson said she felt confidence was finally picking up.
“There have been some positive announcements over the last seven to 10 days,” she said, citing: “The UK opening for inbound US and EU nationals and the lifting of the ban on international cruising for”. But she stressed: “We need more.
“Consumer confidence has been really low. We need a message from the government that it’s safe to travel now that the majority of people have been double vaccinated.
“We need more destinations added to the green list and no more on the amber or the red – and we need a four nations approach.”
She argued that the Scottish government had been more restrictive than other UK nations, which she said had caused complexity and confusion.
“With our head office and most of our branches based in Scotland, we’ve really felt it,” Dobson said, adding that all retail shops were now open but head office staff were still working from home and will return on a hybrid office/home-working basis.
Dobson said she would continue lobbying for financial assistance for the travel industry.