It’s hard to stay positive when the government shows a total disregard for the outbound sector, says Swords Travel co-director Mark Swords.

As I sit at home watching Politics Live, I’m astounded by how much our government and some MPs don’t care about the outbound travel industry.

Boris Johnson was questioned about the furlough scheme coming to an end, and the desperate need for sector-specific support, and he replied with a generic blanket answer covering all industries.

I suppose blanket is the word of the moment, because that certainly seems to be the government’s approach to quarantine restrictions currently. It really can’t continue. Never have I worked in such an environment where you have to review something that changes so regularly and that results in so much stress and extra work.

Absolute sham

At the moment, the most reliable source of information for the travel industry is The PC Agency chief executive Paul Charles’s updates on Twitter, which show a clear table of what to expect next on the quarantine/Foreign Office advice. However, he’s not in government, and his focus is on the Covid-19 infection rate per 100,000 that is just one of the factors being used to assess whether a country makes the exemption list or not.

“Never have I worked in such an environment where you have to review something that changes so regularly and that results in so much stress and extra work.”

Why is the government not setting up a proper way of communicating with the travel industry, rather than leaving us to guess? It is an absolute sham and shows the total disregard our government has for the outbound tourism sector. It’s great to see that one of the major newspapers, The Telegraph, has started a campaign to bring in airport testing, which would reduce the length of quarantine at the very least – but the concern is whether this will get through to the powers that be before even more companies in the sector go out of business and numerous more employees lose their jobs.

Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve had to push myself daily to stay positive, and a nice trip to Cyprus the other week certainly helped, but it feels like fighting a losing battle sometimes. One thing we have found time to do is to really get down to the nitty-gritty of our business. In normal times, there are always so many distractions, which mean all the jobs you want to get done never get done.

Better business

It’s also been staggering to see how much we’ve managed to reduce our costs. We’ve realised how many things we paid out for we didn’t actually need. Cost-cutting has been vital to ensuring our survival but it also means we will come out of this as a better business. I will certainly be much tougher when making decisions about buying non‑essential items in future.

“As an industry we need to support each other – so if you see something positive about our industry, let’s shout about it.”

Having a new team of four associates has really given the business something to fight for, and we are now working hard to ensure we market ourselves well and promote the destinations that have less chance of being quarantined. Hopefully, we will come out of this with some pride to say we did our best during a really bad time.

In times like this, we need more positive news. As an industry we need to support each other – so if you see something positive about our industry, let’s shout about it.


Ski

Enquiries are up but conversions are tough

As a sales person, I thrive on results and converting bookings. It makes me feel like I’ve done my job well. We have definitely seen an increase in enquiries over the last few weeks, but where we have seen a decrease is in conversion rates. It’s very hard at the moment to get people over the booking line – and quite understandably, as they have zero confidence in the travel rules. We usually start to see an increase in ski about now, so it will be interesting to see how people feel about ski in the coming weeks, especially with France being on the quarantine list.

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