The PM has ordered the closure of non-essential shops until at least

December 2

Lockdown draws mixed reaction as agencies forced to close again

Juliet Dennis

A 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

retailers still open had not received financial support. World Travel Lounge, which has


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

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 busi- ness, so lockdown is the best solution.” But some were angered by the

Why open up

the Canaries and the Maldives for us to have to cancel bookings just a week later?

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 could 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 firms could plan, warning a “frightening amount” of agents would run out of cash by the year’s end despite having plenty of forward bookings. The consortium ran a poll with

Travel Gossip in which 61% of 401 agent respondents said they will run out of cash by the end of the year, and 27% in the first half of next year. Nevertheless, agents remained

optimistic of a sales resurgence in January. McDonald was hopeful sales would be “substantially better than the last seven months”, while Hunt said: “It’s the only thing keeping me going. Our focus is on Easter.” Tui and Jet2holidays are

suspending operations in England for the duration of lockdown. Tui is to continue holidays from Scotland, which retains tiered restrictions, while Jet2 plans to continue operating from

Scotland and Belfast International. i Get Social, page 33

5 NOVEMBER 2020 5

PICTURES: Shutterstock

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