Retail travel will not fully come back for the next year-and-a-half, so agents need to be resilient and adapt their strategies, a leading Irish agent has warned.

Mary McKenna, founder of Tour America and Cruise Holidays, which is due to celebrate its 25th anniversary this year, said: “I’m writing off 2020 and I’m looking at 2021 even not being a good year. This is the reality and I am running my business according to that.”

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, she added: “I am bleeding cash at the moment; everybody’s bleeding cash. And I don’t see retail coming back. I have to be honest and I just can’t see the logistics.

“All I am doing at the moment is studying Bloomberg, CNBC and listening to all these business speakers and not one of them is saying this is going to turn around and be fine.”

She added: “It doesn’t look good for the next year and a half, so I am going to run the business and the strategy around that worst-case scenario, and then we can build up again from there.”

McKenna said launching a new brand called Zoom Holidays last week was part of that new strategy.

“We have learned, from all the other crises we’ve had to deal with, the importance of agility and resilience. I’d never heard of Zoom before [Covid-19], but it’s a very trendy name at the moment in the whole world and I thought ‘what’s important about our business?’ and it’s face-to-face interaction with our customers,” she said.

“I spoke to the staff, and at first they were like, ‘I don’t really know’. But now consumers are saying they actually really like it, so why not? So we have Zoom backgrounds that go on, we can share prices, information and videos of cruise companies, and pictures of hotels – and customers seem to really like it.”

McKenna added: “This is about resilience. This is our strategy going forward. All I know is the goalposts have changed – and that’s what happens in business – but I’m trying it and so far, it looks as if it’s doing very well.

“I’m very excited about it and look, I’m going to give everything a go as I’m a ‘glass half full’ girl.”

McKenna said maintaining customers’ confidence and trust was more important than ever.

“This is where reviews on Facebook are so important,” she said. “Most travel companies block them because they don’t want people giving out about them. But I think if you leave them there, that’s transparency and people hit ‘like’ on this company.

“So that’s what’s really helping us. We’re getting very good feedback from consumers saying you’re actually taking very good care and you care about me. I really hope that pays off.”

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