Scottish agents ‘running on 10% of pre-pandemic revenue’

The majority of travel agencies have been operating at 10% or less of pre-pandemic revenue, according to a poll by the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association.

But the statistic hides the true financial picture for the outbound travel sector, the association says.

With no income until customers travel, agents were faced with refunding bookings made pre-pandemic. This means that once credit card refund charges are taken into account, agents have had negative income since autumn 2019.

A third of members have taken a second job since March 2020 to help their businesses survive and 7% of these members have taken more than three jobs. Almost 70% of travel agency owners surveyed have personally had virtually no income since the pandemic start.

The organisation is approaching MPs and MSPs once again this week to present the facts about the industry and to highlight the special measures in place in other UK nations such as Wales where disruption grants are available to travel businesses.

SPAA president Joanne Dooey (pictured) said: “Even changes to the green list announced last week will have made little impact on our ability to generate revenue. The traditional Scottish summer ‘take off’ is earlier than in England due to the different school holidays. Changes are too late to help Scottish agents with summer revenue.

“Scottish travel agents need financial support.

“The Scottish travelling public needs a much clearer traffic lights system, with a simple green for go and red for stop. We also need a far more cost-effective testing regime, without a Scottish government-mandated monopoly, to bring parity with other UK nations and one which doesn’t financially penalise Scots who want to travel.

“We also desperately need our first minister to stop demonising Scots for going on holiday and to get behind our industry which supports 26,000 jobs in Scotland and brings £1.466 billion to our economy annually.

“The first minister’s position appears to be that, by strongly discouraging Scots from travelling abroad for leisure purposes, the country will keep itself safe from new variants. If this is the argument, then we urgently need an explanation as to why the relaxation of inbound travel from the US and EU is any different.”

The SPAA members’ survey also shows that 72% of travel agencies still have staff on furlough.

Dooey added: “Our members have proved their undeniable resilience throughout the pandemic and remain utterly committed to keeping their doors open for business.

“What they need now, as the possibilities of travel resurface, is a financial bridge to help them reach the point where they receive actual income which will be at the point when overseas travel returns to normal to some extent. Two-thirds of our members have already taken a bounce-back or CIBLS loan, with 30% of these members borrowing over £100k. Seven out of 10 of our members have used their personal savings, 13% have dipped into their pensions and 7% have remortgaged their properties.

“Travel agents have more than proved their financial commitments to their customers and to keeping their staff employed and in supporting their industry which brings more £1 billion a year into the Scottish economy.

“It’s time for our government to show their commitment now too and throw us a lifeline to provide a bridge to when revenue begins to flow once again; not to hold our heads under the water any longer.”

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