A Lincolnshire travel agent said people called him ‘crazy’ for setting up a shop on Main Street amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Shaun Taylor, 41, launched his Bourne-based travel business in June, despite numerous international travel restrictions still in place.
But despite calling the move a “massive gamble,” Shaun says he’s now recruiting staff due to its success so far and will soon be offering a currency exchange service.
He told Lincolnshire Live: “I have to say a lot of people were saying it was a crazy time to open up, but I was convinced that international travel had to come back at some point.
“It was tough though and the day before we opened we learned that Portugal was moved to the government’s red travel list, which was essentially the only major destination left.
“So it has been a challenge, but now it looks really positive and the demand is definitely coming back.
“I had a good September and heard a lot of people say that they are tired of being stuck in the same four walls and people are so excited to go back on vacation.
“I’ve made a lot of reservations recently for the Maldives, Cayman Islands and the Caribbean, I’ve made quite a few for the United States as well.
“What has been interesting is that a lot of people are planning very short term at the moment, so they will come and book vacations for the following week.
“Prices seem to be skyrocketing right now too. I recently offered someone £ 2,300 for a family holiday to Egypt and when they called me back about a week later the price had risen to over of £ 3,000. “
The government recently announced that starting at 4 a.m. on Monday, October 11, 47 countries and territories will be removed from its travel red list, meaning passengers from destinations like Costa Rica and Mexico no ‘will not need to self-quarantine when they return to the UK.
Shaun himself is heading to Jamaica next week for a vacation with his wife, but had to limit his break to one week due to recruitment issues.
He said: “Because it’s been going so well, I’ve had a job offer for about a month, but filling it out has been a bit of a problem.
“As I walk around Bourne, I know it’s not just me, there are ads in many windows announcing a job offer.
“But it’s a little disappointing because I had hoped to have someone else employed than me so that I could have someone to cover me during my vacation.
“But instead, we’re just going to be going for a week and I’ll have to close the shop while we’re there.
“I have also booked a day of interviews and will be recruiting through the government’s Kickstarter program, hoping to employ this person on a permanent basis after six months.”
The Kickstarter program provides for the government to pay the full wages of 16 to 24 year olds on universal credit who risk long-term unemployment.
Shaun’s journey to opening Inspire Travel by Shaun in South Kesteven, having never been self-employed before, is one that he says is “the other way around” for most people in the travel industry.
He said: “I worked for Thomas Cook for a while and eventually became their treasury manager in the UK, so I took care of the treasury of all their branches.
“Then I worked with TUI but got laid off in February 2020, so I first started as a travel agent working from home, but then the pandemic hit.
“For a while I was just doing a series of roles to make ends meet, from driving delivery to working with the NHS, when finally I saw that the store that was once used by Co-Op travel had become available for hire.
“I thought it was a great opportunity as there are no other travel agencies within a 15-20 minute drive and so it was a huge bet but I went – and until now I’m really glad I did.
“I think during the pandemic, when people were booking online, there was a panic when vacations were canceled because they had been on the phone for ages trying to get their money back.
“I think it made people appreciate travel agents again with a physical presence on Main Street because they are, hopefully, someone they can trust and someone who can help explain any confusing travel rules that remain in place. “
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