The travel industry in general, and particularly consortia, need to provide more mental health support, a panel during TTG’s first Get?Travel Talking seminar has stressed.
Joining the ‘Refusing to suffer in silence’ debate last month were Chris North, managing director, Vertical Systems; Marie Orpe, personal travel advisor, Holiday Elite; and Chris Wild, founder of Aviation Action.
Orpe, who is an ex-Freedom Travel Group agent, said homeworkers were especially vulnerable. “If you speak to any homeworker, we’re very, isolated.
“After Thomas Cook collapsed, there wasn’t anywhere any of us could go; Abta Lifeline focused on the money side. “There is a need for every consortia to have something in place that supports homeworkers. We have a duty of care to look after them.”
This need was more acute during the pandemic, she said. “People are frightened for their livelihoods and that can lead to self-doubt and struggles.”
She advised: “If you’re not feeling in the right frame of mind, put your work away, go do something you love and then come back to it. Take a breather.”
North, who has previously spoken of his own struggles with mental health, said he had spoken to his company’s homeworkers during the pandemic.
“It was clear a number were really struggling. People who were very closed became very forthcoming about their own experience. Talking is the best thingyou can do, it’s the start to battling your demons. I suffered for 10 years in silence and I’m so much better for talking about it.”
North said one in four people “feel like this” and added it would be refreshing for all businesses to have a go-to person to address mental health issues.
Orpe added people in the travel industry were “generally quite confident, upbeatpeople”.
“The flipside is that those who have the highest highs also have the lowest lows and those big bubbly personalities in the industry may feel like they have to hide behind that persona because they’ve always been perceived like that.”
She said if someone like that spoke out, others would take confidence from them.
The travel industry is in need of a dedicated action group to provide mental health support as a result of the pressures of the coronavirus pandemic.
That was the suggestion of Wild, who told delegates during the same session that travel professionals had asked him to establish a group similar to Aviation Action, which Wild set up in May to support airline and airport staff.
“People were losing their jobs with no real support. The response has been staggering; we had people contact us within minutes. We haven’t stopped for the past four-to-five months,” he said.
“We’ve had approaches from the tourism industry to create a Tourism Action or something like that. The need is absolutely there.”
North, managing said many people had contacted him afterwards to share their own experiences. “If we can get people talking, it will most definitely save lives,” he said.