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The furloughed travel professional using his downtime to volunteer

Oli Dobbs, business development director at the Travel Gallery, is using furlough to give back to people in his community. TTG finds out more

Although many travel businesses have had to furlough staff in the current crisis, some travel professionals are using this downtime time positively to help their local communities.


When Oli Dobbs, business development director at the Travel Gallery in London, was put on furlough around a month ago, he decided to put his time to good use. “I felt like I needed to do something to help out because everyone, both in the travel industry and outside it, is going through a tough time,” says Oli.


Oli heard that his local council in Purfleet was looking for volunteers to help out at the local food bank and also to do food shops for vulnerable residents. He also contacted the charity Age UK directly to see how he could help older people in the community. He is now volunteering for both the council and Age UK.


Age UK has given him a list of 15 elderly people who he calls up once each week. “A lot of elderly people had cleaners or carers coming over beforehand, but they can’t have anyone visiting at the moment because of the coronavirus risk, so I make sure that they are OK and I also have a bit of chat with them so they don’t feel excluded from society," he explains.


He is also “on standby” to help whenever the council needs him. “I’ve done a couple of food shops for elderly people so far and I’ve also helped out at the food bank for the last three weeks in a row,” explains Oli.


Although his day-to-day life is very different at the moment, Oli says he is happy to be able to help those in a less fortunate position. “Normally I’d be out on the road handling all the sales for a boutique hotel we work with in Sri Lanka and two years ago today I was with a bunch of travel agents on a fam to Sri Lanka.


“It’s just great to be out and about though and knowing I’m able to help is very rewarding.”


Other furloughed travel professionals should consider volunteering their time to a council or charity if they can, says Oli. “Volunteering schemes with the NHS are inundated; councils and charities have direct contact with vulnerable people so get in touch with these groups to see if you can help.”


Oli is also looking ahead to see how he can help further down the line. “ I am planning to run a half marathon in October to raise money for a charity such as Mind UK because a lot of people have been suffering mentally throughout this crisis too.


“If I can run on behalf of a travel charity, I will also do that because it’s important to give back to the industry.”


Even though Oli is unsure whether he will be able to go back to his former role, he says he will return to working in the travel industry as soon as he can. “I have worked in the industry since I was 16 years old and I’m now 30. I’m currently looking into temporary delivery driver and sales roles, but the travel industry hasn’t seen the last of me!"


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