Cumbria travel agent says industry is ‘working blind’ as trade plummets

A Cumbrian travel agent has slammed the lack of Government support during the pandemic, despite being the worst-hit industry.

Cockermouth Travel remained open and on-call 24/7 during the Covid-19 pandemic, even though the travel industry shut down.

Paul Cusack, owner of the business, highlighted how travel has been one of the worst-hit industries, yet says they have received no help or support from the Government like other sectors have.

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He said: “We are about 99 per cent down year on year. We had to trade because we had hundreds of existing bookings that needed to be cancelled, changed or refunded.

“Every booking we had in place in March last year has either been cancelled and refunded or changed.

“No one actually makes any money until people can get on a plane, go on holiday and come back. So as an industry every travel agent and tour operator in the UK hasn’t made a bean since last March.”

During the pandemic, the workload was spread between the team meaning that on average Mr Cusack was working about six hours a week.

Cockermouth Travel wouldn’t have been able to close, even if they wanted to, as the staff needed to be on hand to deal with existing bookings and queries customers had about their upcoming holidays.

Even though restrictions have eased and people can travel more freely within the UK, this hasn’t affected bookings.

Mr Cusack explained: “95 per cent of domestic bookings people do themselves. So that hasn’t been any help at all.”

Speaking about the green list, Mr Cusack said: “The only actual country that is on the green list is Malta, all the other countries are on the green watch list and could go to amber at any point.

“What has really irked the travel industry is the Greek Islands. The Government said back in February, March time that if a population of a destination had been fully vaccinated then they would allow travel to that destination.

“But yet it’s not making it onto the green list. So far one of the issues that the travel industry has with the green list is that the government has so far refused to publish the criteria of making it on or off the green list.

“So we’re all working blind.”

Last week workers in the travel industry protested at Westminster due to the lack of support.

“People from all parts of the travel industry, airline staff, tour operators, travel agents, everyone was there protesting.

“The reasons we are protesting is because the government has in effect shut us down for the last six months but yet they refuse to give us support for that.

“Statistically, according to the governments own office of national statistics, travel is the worst affected hit industry with regard to Covid yet we are the one they continue to ignore in terms of sector-specific support.”

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