There is a glimmer of light on the horizon, says Swords Travel co-director Mark Swords.

The old saying that you wait ages for a bus, then two turn up at once, has never felt truer than in the travel industry lately.

To start with, we had the news of that, as of December 3, international travel can go ahead again in the new lockdown tiers. This is such great news, particularly for our customers with last-minute booking to Dubai, the Canaries and the Maldives. And for us, it means we might finally get some cashflow into the business after nine months of nothing.

“More crucial than anything for agents like us in the southwest of London, is news of a testing site at Gatwick airport, which opened on Monday.”

Then, more good news when we heard that the 14-day quarantine is to be reduced to as little as five days (if you get negative results from a private test on day five) shows things are going the right way. I’m still not sure this will encourage people to want to travel to what the government deems are ‘high risk’ destinations, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

More crucial than anything for agents like us in the southwest of London, is news of a testing site at Gatwick airport, which opened on Monday. Our clients flying from Gatwick can now go somewhere and get a test at a reasonable fee of £60 (it’s £99 for non-flyers).

As we get close to a vaccine and try to get people travelling again, testing at a reasonable price is going to be crucial to getting people moving.

I do, however, still see a lot of doubt on Twitter, and through friends, about travelling over Christmas and New Year, particularly around the fact there is no guidance as to whether you will get these tests back in time and within the window required, which is 72 hours for the Canaries.

Grant is a lifeline

The final piece of positive news for us was that our Local Restrictions Supports Grant was approved. This was a hell of a relief after we had heard rumours and reports that some businesses in the travel industry may not be entitled to this lifeline.

“I would urge everyone who isn’t getting the support they require to push this via their MP or shout about it from the rooftops.”

We, like most businesses, have received so little support during this period that to have even this small amount will make a huge difference – even if it’s just to cover one month’s rent. Having said that, I’ve also seen and spoken to many agents that have not been so lucky claiming this grant, and are currently battling with their local councils for a lifeline that is quite rightly deserved.

I would urge everyone who isn’t getting the support they require to push this via their MP or shout about it from the rooftops and let local authorities know you are not going away without a fight.

Look to the future

With news of progress on multiple vaccines glimmering on the horizon, whatever happens now it is clear that things can only get better for the travel industry. We have all been through one of the toughest stages in our business and personal lives, and I’m sure we will have all learnt so much about ourselves and our customers. And, hopefully, this will make us all stronger and more resilient for the future.


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Webinars lead to bookings

Over the four weeks of lockdown in England, we’ve been running weekly client webinars with great success. We called it ‘travel across the world with us during lockdown’ – and have covered Japan, South America, India, Africa, Vietnam, Cambodia and Sri Lanka.

“I wanted to say thanks to all our amazing partners who have been involved and supported us with this.”

It has been really successful, and we’ve even managed to secure a few bookings from it too, which just shows the appetite is there for 2021.

It also gives us some great content for YouTube for future clients. So I wanted to say thanks to all our amazing partners who have been involved and supported us with this.

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