Tour operator boss considers making girlfriend redundant

A specialist tour operator boss faces the prospect of making his partner of 20 years redundant when the furlough scheme finishes at the end of September.

Sam Collins, who set up south-east Asia specialist Ethos Travel 13 years ago, has been hampered by the number of countries – including Thailand and Sri Lanka – on the UK government’s red list for international travel.

Although he believes Ethos’ future is secure, he feels he will have to reduce staff numbers from three to two in three weeks’ time when furlough draws to a close.

Collins had five full time staff and another part-time worker before Covid.

He told Travel Weekly: “We’ve taken a common sense approach and we’re able to hunker down and go into hibernation as a business.

“The travel industry is full of tales of individual issues and woes. There are so many people with problems. We’re now coming to the end of furlough and we cannot afford to pay my partner’s salary any more.

“Unless something changes, we’ll have to make her redundant. I am here fighting to be heard. I cannot change what is happening. I cannot make [transport secretary] Grant Shapps change the system – whatever happens, happens.

“I don’t see sector-specific support coming in or furlough being extended. There’s no other industry that lost back-dated business as well. We lost half of our 2019 business because they were forward bookings.”

Collins said that one client has rebooked a trip to Ko Samet [Thailand] eight times. “They paid in full and they want to keep the money in the company,” he explained.

He said industry friends have sent messages asking why he might make the mother of his two daughters redundant at his London-based business.

His partner, who has not been named, has spent much of her time on furlough building her own scented candle business and is preparing for a “major operation” on September 28.

Collins added: “When she recovers from her operation, she will be focusing on her business but I am hoping to bring her back. She knows the business inside out.”

Collins’ partner holds a marketing role at Ethos Travel but also maintains the business’ partnerships.

“We try to keep money within the countries our customers visit and support local guides where we can,” he said, adding: “She helps do that.

“For the past five years she has been doing our marketing and partnerships.”

More: Travel agency leaders fear Covid talent drain

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