An independent travel agent in Southam who helped rescue clients stranded in Australia during the height of the pandemic is confident that business will come back once the situation improves.
Jane Kaye, who sold her first holiday back in 1979, works on her own as part of travel franchise Travel-pa.
Her business, like many others in her industry, took a severe hit when the pandemic began to take hold in March last year.
But thanks to Stratford District Council awarding Jane discretionary grants throughout the disruption, her business has been kept afloat while work has dried up through no fault of her own.
She said: “When everything started to move very quickly in February and March last year, I worked seven days a week to get my customers back home.
“I had clients in Australia, including two on the ill-fated Ruby Princess, when all foreign visitors were given a week or so to leave. Flights were fully booked or cancelled.
“I got everyone home but it was nerve-wracking as borders in the Middle East were closing and flights cancelled within a couple of hours of my having issued tickets.
“Before the pandemic I’d had as much business as I could take care of properly and things were going well. But by May when the dust had settled I had no new work.
“Some lucky holidaymakers got away last summer but most of the world is still closed to us and since February 2020 I've only made four new bookings.
"I’m still postponing and refunding holidays but my business isn’t earning any money.”
After speaking to colleagues at Travel-pa, Jane learned that she might be eligible for grants to help her stay afloat.
She added: “I didn’t realise I’d be eligible to receive any grant funding since I work from a home office but I gave Stratford District Council a call.
"I know they were swamped with applications but I still received patience and advice.”
A member of the revenues team suggested that eligibility was possible and Jane should apply for a discretionary grant. Within two weeks it was approved and funds were promptly paid into her business account.
Some weeks later they contacted her to say she was entitled to a further sum.
“I appreciated their thinking of me. I sent them a card because they were working to help us last year when most people were nervous to go into an office and they deserved a thank-you,” Jane said.
Jane is optimistic that personal travel advisors will be in demand once the effects of the pandemic begin to recede.
She said: “Last year so many holidaymakers lost money and wasted time sorting out cancelled trips.
“Of course we’ll want financial security from an established travel company but I also hope that people will look for a personal service from a good travel professional who’ll know not just the right holiday for their needs but also what to do should things ever go awry.
“Increasingly people ask me about travelling abroad. I see how much they value it. When we’re permitted to travel and borders reopen to us I think we’ll be so grateful.
"We’ll want to explore more than ever.”
Cllr Jo Barker, portfolio holder for homes, health and wellbeing at Stratford District Council, added: “We’re pleased to hear Jane received such a great service from the revenues team – many have been working unsociable hours to process grants so her sending a thank-you card meant a lot to our staff.
“The travel industry has felt the effects of the pandemic very harshly, and we want to do all we can to support independent businesses like Jane’s to get back on their feet so they can start to trade again when borders open up.
“We would encourage any business with questions about grants to get in touch with us.”
For more information about grants and business support, visit stratford.gov.uk/coronavirus/support-for-business.cfm