Advantage and Travel Gossip release stark results from poll
Advantage, the UK’s largest travel agent consortium, and Travel Gossip, the online agent community, have found that 61 per cent of travel agencies will run out of cash by the end of the year.
If blanket travel bans and a lack of testing continue, a further 27 per cent will run out of cash in the first half of next year – meaning 88 per cent of surveyed agencies would have gone out of business.
Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO at The Advantage Travel Partnership said: “When will the government wake up and see that an industry is collapsing in front of them? These results are deeply concerning, but sadly are indicative of many businesses throughout the travel industry. We need an exit strategy from our government to outline how we are going to move forwards. Hospitality and retail had to ensure they were Covid secure when they reopened in the summer, and travel needs its own equivalent – we must have a robust testing system in place and quarantine periods reduced to give us any chance of surviving this crisis. The Global Travel Taskforce is scheduled to present its findings to the Prime Minister in early November, and we are calling on them to progress their discussions as a matter of urgency. This absolutely cannot be delayed otherwise this will have a catastrophic impact on travel agents and the travel industry.”
Bruce Martin, founder at Travel Gossip added: “It is heart-breaking to hear about so many of our travel agent community on the precipice of closure and financial ruin and these results demonstrate the dire repercussions that this pandemic has had on agents. The second national lockdown and blanket travel ban will only make matters worse as they will have to provide support to travellers who had trips booked and deal with a second round of refunds, putting additional pressure on travel agents who have had little to no revenue since March through no fault of their own.”
The results from the survey were gathered via a Facebook poll on Travel Gossip’s Facebook page, received 401 responses within a 24 hour timeframe between 2 – 3 November 2020, following the announcement of a second national lockdown in England.
Sam Ballard speaks to the tour operator’s head of trade
Talk us through the last few months.
We have continued to successfully operate this year, albeit on a much-reduced capacity. It’s down to us to prove it can be done. We’ve run 13 trips to Italy so far and it’s been about adapting to the rules as they have developed. For instance, on one of our recent tours, we were due to go to Switzerland. The rules changed and we instead took our guests to Monza where they did a tour of the town and racetrack. As long as you have a plan and communicate it then customers understand.
How have you been approaching your tours and cruises during this time?
It’s all about flexibility. We were primed to start river cruising in Portugal a few months ago and the rules changed. We’re still looking at trying to get some Christmas market cruises operating. We also pushed back our balance due to dates to only 30 days before departure, so we didn’t force anyone on our tours. It means that our customers can easily transfer their booking. However, the overriding sentiment is that our customers want to travel.
What about on the tours themselves?
Our group sizes are capped at 25, while they would usually be about 50. But, we still put them on a big 50-seater coach. A Riviera rep now meets everyone at the airport in the UK. Our tour managers have also never been so valuable. They tell you everything you need to know and do.
How are you talking to the trade? How important are they during these times?
We’re currently planning on running a normal season from March and are planning a Peaks campaign for the turn of year. All of our trade team has been working since July and we’ve been out visiting the trade. Travel agents have appreciated seeing some familiar faces. We’ve been sending people out to Italy and the amount of questions we’ve had directed to us – about the destination but also airports etc – has been really interesting. If anyone wants to ask us a question, even if it’s a general travel question like what it’s like boarding a plane right now – we’re here to help.
Anything new on the horizon?
We’ve just launched a UK touring range. It includes destinations like Scotland, Yorkshire, the Lake District, Cornwall and Northern Ireland. They will begin operating from April 2021.