As we welcome a new year, and with it the idea of a new start, we have also seen the familiar challenges of 2020 continue, with a new national lockdown to protect lives and the NHS – the importance of which, of course, we all fully support.
Constraints on our lives and the ability to meet friends, family and make memories, whether at home or abroad, are set to continue until we see the vaccine delivered at pace, which we hope is only weeks away.
New lockdown measures come with government announcements on financial support. The focus of the latest pledge to support business, whilst welcome, does not go far enough.
Those with trading premises, for example, can access dedicated support, and we hope that many of our friends and peers in the industry can gain at least some relief from this.
However, as with many other industries, there continues to be a lack of recognition for the huge part self-employed and small business owners play not only in contributing to the UK economy, but the efforts these dedicated people have made over the past few months to ensure their customers continue to experience outstanding levels of service and care.
As many national media titles are now beginning to report, sections of the self-employed and small business owners have been forgotten, but not by us, and certainly not by their customers who hugely value all that they continue to do for them.
The travel industry offers a diverse range of businesses and career opportunities, a point that appears to have been missed by the government. In fact, working remotely and flexibly is a way of life that has become incredibly familiar to many businesses over the past few months, and has been the catalyst for more than 150 people in the past 10 months to launch their own corporate and leisure travel business with us.
We launched a dedicated digital hub focused on financial wellness, budget planning, and exploring every avenue offered to small business owners. The TC Wellbeing Fund, which is an extension of our long-standing benevolent fund, has also been made available and has been accessed by both Travel Counsellor business owners and colleagues since spring. Offering both financial and emotional support to people continues to be key, as is being part of a community or industry that has your back. I believe the industry will find a way through this, not least because it is full of people who love what they do and are desperate to get back to looking after their customers and clients.
It is a credit to all in the travel industry how businesses and individuals have adapted, which includes making some very difficult decisions, taking on other job roles or securing loans to get through this.
We continue to lobby for further measures to support the livelihoods of people working in the industries that have been hardest hit – those who work in travel and those who have taken the chance to back themselves as a self-employed, small business owner. Our diverse industry has been misunderstood, but will prevail.
Attracting and retaining talented professionals within travel is essential, not only to support customers in boosting confidence, offering valued reassurance, trusted advice and care every step of the way, but to meet the natural pent-up demand we will see as restrictions ease in the months to come.
Challenges remain ahead, but more than ever customers need the care and support that can only be offered by real, human travel experts. We will continue to support self-employed and small business-owners, and champion all travel professionals who are there and show care for their customers in the weeks and months to come.