A local travel agent has said that Covid-19 has been the greatest challenge the industry has ever faced and she fears the travel industry could be the last to recover from the economic fallout the pandemic has caused.
Speaking to the Democrat, Karen Thornton, founder of KT Travel on Clanbrassil Street in Dundalk explained: “The Travel industry has gone through many disruptions in the past including 9/11, SARS and the ash cloud in 2010 was extremely disruptive. However nothing has completely stopped us like Covid 19.”
She added: “The industry has been devastated and will most likely be the last industry to recover but we will recover. People want to travel and discover the world and they will travel again, it will be different for a while but it will bounce back.”
On the question of whether people should travel abroad, Karen agrees it is a difficult one.
“This is a very hard question as the government and airlines are putting across two very mixed messages. The Airlines are doing very cheap flights yet the government are advising not to travel.
“Everyone has their own opinion on travel, the people who want to travel will travel.”
During the lockdown, and even still, Karen says her staff have been extremely busy with “large volumes” of bookings to sort through.
“The staff have been under severe pressure trying to deal with the large volume of bookings that we had to facilitate.
“This is still an ongoing task as well as chasing refunds on a daily basis that we are still waiting on from airlines and suppliers.
“We had some extremely understanding customers and also some very aggressive customers which was very upsetting for the staff as we can only do what we are allowed to do from airlines and suppliers.
“It was also very upsetting for customers as not all options given to us were suitable to them. All the suppliers and airlines were changing their options constantly and it was difficult for the staff aswell as our customers.”
With air travel grinding to an almost complete halt during the pandemic lockdown, the situation was stressful for Karen and her staff - it changed the complexion of how they view their work, Karen adds.
“We worked more hours than ever before under extremely difficult and stressful circumstances. We were rebooking clients and where possible applying for refunds where possible or getting vouchers for future travel.
“Our usual job of booking holidays for people which is a very enjoyable job turned into a nightmare. Travel agents across the country were left as the middle man between the consumer and the airlines and operators. In some cases this proved extremely difficult for us as we don’t make the rules we can only give options that the Airlines and Operators provide to us.”
While the doors were closed, Karen says they introduced a range of new measures to enable social distancing and a safe environment for customers and staff at their Clanbrassil Street premises. Come June 29, they reopened their doors.
“We are busy with future bookings," says Karen. "(We're) very busy booking family 2021 holidays as a lot of people have missed out on holidays this year.
“We believe that with the huge increase of sales for 2021 that there will be a massive demand and little availability going forward.
“There is good value still at the minute for 2021, but as the availability decreases the prices we believe will increase.”