Agents called for “tangible investment” in mental health services – within the industry and society – while reflecting on the pressures of running their businesses during the pandemic.
During a special Facebook Live session for TTG Media and Abta LifeLine’s Get Travel Talking Week, independent agency bosses, alongside Abta’s head of membership Danny Waine, spoke candidly of the challenges they had faced and how they were feeling.
Deben Travel managing director Lee Hunt described the pandemic as “the worst year of my life” as he dealt with financial worries and sleep issues, adding the strains of the past 14 months had “totally changed” him as an individual.
Jeanne Lally, joint-managing director of Travel Bureau, said a pre-pandemic mental wellbeing focus had helped her team, and urged firms “not to compare and despair” against other businesses.
Abta’s Waine said he’d had more than 100 meetings with members, and there were times when people were crying on a daily basis.
“I’ve had business owners telling me they feel like failures, it’s heartbreaking,” he said. “They’re not failures... they’re living through the worst time the industry has ever seen.”
Hunt admitted he was “probably the one struggling the most” in his team, and his perspective on mental health had changed from “pull yourself together” to a state that allowed him to better support friends and colleagues.
Lally called for more investment in, and access to, mental health support, warning she believed the UK was “on the cusp of a mental health explosion” post-pandemic.
“There needs to be tangible change, whether that comes from government or comes from our industry. We have to make it happen,” she added.
Hunt added: “As agents, we spend 90% of our time working for others – organising travel, booking, rebooking. We have been putting everyone else first rather than ourselves. We need to take some of that back.”