Covid restrictions may have lifted, but no Freedom Day for travel industry

Farley Shelkin has run Dagenham Travel for almost four decades, but fears for the future of his busi

Dagenham Travel managing director Farley Shelkin. - Credit: Andrew Brookes

Freedom Day may have offered a lifeline for nightclubs, theatres and event planners, but it offers little relief for the travel industry. 

On July 19, when the remaining Covid restrictions were lifted, new travel rules also came into effect; people who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to self-isolate when they return from an “amber list” country. 

However, the requirements and cost of testing as well as the uncertainty around varying rules for different countries still present major roadblocks for the travel industry, with low consumer confidence in booking trips.

It means while most industries are celebrating “freedom” after 16 months of lockdowns and Covid restrictions, the challenges of the pandemic remain for businesses like Dagenham Travel.

Managing director Farley Shelkin said: “We’re almost the only industry that still can’t trade.

“Restaurants are trading, theatres can open this week, sports events will be open, all shops are open and trading.

“Travel agents are open but they’ve got nothing to sell because people can almost go nowhere without restrictions.”

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Frequent changes to the grading of other countries in the UK’s traffic light system and the ramifications of rules changing suddenly while on holidays are still putting people off travelling abroad.

Mr Shelkin said keeping up with current rules was “beyond a headache” and it has “become very stressful and difficult to manage ourselves through this system”.

“The pent up demand for people wanting to travel, certainly aboard – where 95pc of our business is – is huge, but people are being pulled back by the nervousness of the complications,” he added.

“No one wants to go somewhere and have to isolate when they get back; the cost of the tests for the average family is prohibitive; and people don’t want to go to an amber or green country that then suddenly, halfway through their holiday, goes red.

“At the moment, the complications for travel are huge and it’s holding us back.”

The travel agency on the corner of Reede Road and Heathway has "become almost an information centre", with people calling to ask about the current rules.

“But what is today may not be tomorrow, so we’ll answer their questions but we have to be careful because we don’t want to leave ourselves liable for wrong information," Mr Shelkin said.

“It’s an absolute minefield."

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