“It’s too late for us, but the government needs to help – otherwise there won’t be a travel industry left.”
That was the message of Village Travel director Jennie Watson after revealing her agency had recently ceased trading due to the impact of the Covid pandemic.
Watson, who took over the Cheam-based TTG Top 50-shortlisted shop alongside co-owner Tara Munson in 2013, said she was “devastated”, having broken the news to clients late last month and closed the agency to customers.
She said the Village Travel team had “known what was coming” since June after battling severe cash flow problems due to cancellations and refunds, but had “done all we could” to try to save the business.
“I loved the shop, our team and our clients… it’s been a very difficult time and something I’m only just getting my head around,” Watson told TTG.
“You keep asking yourself – could we have done more? But nobody knew this pandemic was going to happen and once we started to have the kind of cash flow issues that we did, there’s not a lot you can do.”
The shop was due to mark its 40th year as a travel agency in 2020, having previously traded under Travel World and Ambassador Travel, which Watson and Munson worked for before taking the business on seven years ago.
The agency was shortlisted for the inaugural TTG Top 50 awards in 2016 and scored another nomination this year.
Watson said Village Travel’s consortium, Advantage Travel Partnership, had allowed her to manage the agency’s remaining forward bookings to make sure customers were looked after.
She will set up a temporary base at the office of her brother’s plumbing business.
“Our clients are so loyal and the reaction we’ve had from our local community has been really heartening. Many of the posts on our Facebook page have been very emotional to read.
“It’s meant a lot to see how much the agency and the team meant to them and hopefully once this is all over and travel gets back to normal, our clients will want to book again. I want to try and stay in travel as it’s my passion.”
Watson called for “urgent action” from the government as travel firms continue to face incredible financial pressures and uncertainty amid the pandemic.
“It seems as though there’s been support for every industry but travel but that has to change. It’s too late for us now but there are so many other agents and tour operators out there – many really specialist and skilled companies – whose expertise are vital for our industry to thrive.
“We need to make [the government] listen through the #SaveTravel campaign because these smaller companies won’t be able to survive much longer and we won’t have the same travel industry as we did before.”