Travel agent breaks down as she reveals Covid crisis is killing company she’s run for 20 years – saying she’s made only £120 this month but still has to pay an employee £500 under ‘cr***y’ furlough scheme
- Kate Harris has run her own business, Inspired Travel, for 20 years but says the Covid crisis has seen her applying for jobs to stack shelves as bookings dry up
- Told Travel Weekly webcast she’s made just £120 this month but still has to find £500 to pay her furloughed employee
- Was close to tears as she revealed she’d rather catch Covid that lose her shop
- Slammed ‘cr**py’ furlough scheme and said she’s already £10,000 in debt
A travel agent is seen breaking down in tears as she discusses her fight to save her previously successful 20-year-old business from going under due to the Covid crisis – and reveals how she’s applying for jobs to stack shelves in a bid to pay her bills.
Kate Harris, who owns award-winning holiday company Inspired Travel and lives in Burbage, Leicestershire, couldn’t contain her emotion as she discussed how her business has been put under huge strain, as she slammed the Government’s furlough scheme as ‘cr**py’.
Speaking to Travel Weekly Editor-in-chief Lucy Huxley for a webcast about the way the travel industry has been devastated by the pandemic, the single mother-of-one fought back tears as she revealed how, even with the help of the furlough scheme, she’s only taken £120 in the last month, and still has to pay her one employee £500.
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Heartbreaking: Travel agent Kate Harris who has run her own award-winning business, Inspired Travel, for 20 years says the Covid crisis has seen her applying for jobs to stack shelves as bookings have dried up
Speaking in a webcast with Travel Weekly, she told Editor-in-chief Lucy Huxley, pictured top left, that she doesn’t know what she’d do if she lost her shop – and wonders whether all the sacrifices she’s made along the way are now worth it
Harris told the webcast that she didn’t want to be a ‘moaner’ and was working hard to get a second job to support her business
Getting emotional, she told Huxley in the ‘heartbreaking’ interview that she already owed £10,000 and is behind on the company’s corporation tax and VAT bills.
She said she’d been left wondering whether all the sacrifices she’s made along the way, including years when she says she was a ‘drive-by mother’, to run her own business have been worth it.
The company director struggled not to cry as she revealed recent interviews she’s had, saying: ‘I did a Zoom interview for a job with two people who are younger than my 27-year-old son. I’m answering questions like a manager when I’m applying to stack shelves.
‘I never wanted to do that [but] this has been my life and I will do whatever it takes to save my business.’
She added: ‘I think if the choice was between having Covid or a roof over my head I’d pick Covid every day because without my job, without this shop to come to I don’t know what I’d do anymore.’
Huxley later tweeted the webcast, saying it was ‘utterly heartbreaking’.
Editor-in-chief of Travel Weekly, Lucy Huxley, warned there’ll be many more agents facing the same trials as Kate (pictured)
She wrote: ‘If you do one thing today…watch the raw emotion displayed by agent Kate Harris of Inspired Travel on this webcast about the Chancellor’s Job Support Scheme & more. There will be many more agents just like Kate. #SaveFutureTravel’
Another agent painted a similar picture of her own business, @julie_travel wrote: ‘This is the reality of what is happening to previously successful travel businesses. I don’t have premises but haven’t earned a penny since March and now looking at a raft of Lapland bookings possibly cancelling. It’s heartbreaking.’
Harris said she’d hoped in March to back ‘up and running’ by August but was now hoping for a surge in bookings next spring instead.
How Covid has crushed 2020 travel plans – leaving many holiday companies facing a bleak winter…
By Jo Tweedy
The travel industry has faced plenty of adversity before 2020, with terrorism, economic downturns and the previous threat of pandemics – including the 2003 SARS outbreak – all impacting travel agents and tour operators in the past.
However, most would agree that the 2020 coronavirus pandemic is the biggest single blow ever dealt to the industry… with quarantine, a fear of the virus spreading on planes and in airports, and the promise of a second wave this winter already proving the death knell for some smaller operators.
In the UK, while the summer saw a chance for the staycation market to bounce back from the wiped-out Easter and May holidays, Boris Johnson’s rule of six – and the likelihood of even tougher restrictions coming soon – has ensured that many British hotels and self-catering properties are preparing for huge losses over the winter.
For companies who rely on overseas operations, the picture looks even bleaker, with countries on the ‘travel corridor’ list changing frequently, meaning there’s little certainty for holidaymakers who might ordinarily break for the sun.
This week, the general secretary of the TSSA trade union, Manuel Cortes, made an impassioned plea for the Government to do more to save the beleaguered holiday industry, with an upturn in fortunes now looking increasingly unlikely until at least Spring 2021.
He told this year’s Institute of Travel and Tourism virtual conference: ‘I am saying that no stone should be left unturned to support our industry. At the moment we are seeing nothing really [from government].
‘Whenever this virus is conquered we will all need a well-deserved holiday and sadly if the government doesn’t take measures to preserve our industry we will not have an industry.
‘In the short term, the industry cannot compete. What we need is the government to step in and hold the industry’s hand so we can emerge stronger than before.
‘It has done so in the past for the banking sector, why can’t it do the same for the travel trade?’
UK TRAVEL CORRIDORS: WHERE CAN YOU CURRENTLY HOLIDAY WITHOUT QUARANTINE?
Antigua and Barbuda
Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba
British Indian Ocean Territory
British Virgin Islands
The Channel Islands
Greece (except the islands of Crete, Lesvos, Mykonos, Santorini, Serifos, Tinos and Zakynthos – if you arrive in England from any of these islands you will need to self-isolate)
The Isle of Man
Singapore (if you arrived in England from Singapore before 4am 19 September 2020 you will need to self-isolate)
St Kitts and Nevis
St Vincent and the Grenadines
Thailand (if you arrived in England from Thailand before 4am 19 September 2020 you will need to self-isolate)