Maidenhead travel agent warns of 'big problems' if summer trade quashed

A travel agent in Maidenhead has warned that there will be ‘big problems’ if the industry is forced to take a hit on its trade for another summer as the Government remains coy on when to reopen the country.

Mark Pollard, who owns Tony Sheldon Travel in Brock Lane, has said that his firm is ‘holding on in there’ as it waits for news.

The industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, with Mark adding that he has been cancelling and changing people’s holidays for more than a year.

“What I would love to see is just a line in the sand. Even if they say people cannot go on holiday until September, at least we know where we stand,” Mark said. “The problem is, no one knows what to do.”

Mark – who has had to let some staff members go – explained how his industry faces different problems to others.

“If we book a holiday for June, then we won’t earn any money until June,” he said.

“We have been in business for a long time and we left a nest egg for a rainy day – this has been the rainy day.”

Mark called for more financial support from Government specifically for the travel sector, which he claims it has ‘forgotten’.

He added that once more people are vaccinated, there could be potential for ‘travel corridors’ from the UK to help get the industry back on its feet.

The possibility of people being able to travel within the UK could be another source of income when it is safe.

But Mark reiterated that there are ‘so many questions’ and remains uncertain about whether people will even want to travel once restrictions are eased.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to publish a roadmap detailing how to get the country out of lockdown on Monday.

“The whole industry is just taking a deep breath and waiting for it to kick in,” Mark said.

“I think the industry can wait until the summer. If it does not get another summer, then I think there will be big problems.”

Another sector being hit hard is leisure, with places like gyms remaining shut.

Mark Camp-Overy is the managing director of Leisure Focus, which runs the Braywick Leisure Centre in Maidenhead – a site carrying out lateral flow COVID testing.

“The industry is calling for the Government roadmap to place gyms and leisure facilities high on the agenda to reopen,” he said.

“I talk with users every day about the physical and mental benefit they get from using our facilities. They provide so much.

“We are ready and cannot wait to welcome the community back.”

A Government spokeswoman said: “We are working hard to get visitors back as soon as it is safe to do so, and we will publish our roadmap on Monday, after carefully reviewing the impact of current restrictions and the vaccine programme on infections, hospital admissions and deaths. No decisions have been made yet.”

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