Travel business calls for Grant Shapps visit to ‘see what a travel agent is’

Off Broadway Travel

Off Broadway Travel has been based in Welwyn for more than 10 years - Credit: Off Broadway Travel

Off Broadway Travel, based in Welwyn, is calling for Welwyn Hatfield 's MP and Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps to visit its shop to see the reality of the role of the travel agent in 2021.

The invitation for a meeting follows Shapps’ comment in his May 7 press briefing about travel businesses being “what people would have called travel agents in the past”.

The award-winning travel agency, which has been a part of the Welwyn community for 13 years, wants to speak to the Secretary of State for Transport to show how travel agents are crucial to rebuilding the outbound tourism industry, which is worth over £37 billion to the economy, and explain how government announcements have affected them.

In his briefing on May 7, Shapps stressed the importance of understanding entry requirements to countries on the red, amber and green lists and ensuring people understood refund policies and terms and conditions around COVID-19 related cancellations and postponements – both of which travel agents are brilliantly placed to explain.

Natalie Bennett, partner at Off Broadway Travel, said: “We’d love to sit down with the Secretary of State for Transport and put our point of view across about how important travel agents are to the recovery of the outbound tourism sector, which employs 221,000 people in the UK.

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“Since the announcement on May 7 our phones have been ringing off the hook with people seeking information about the traffic light system and entry requirements in different countries.

"Travel agents up and down the country are working tirelessly to give people the information they need in an understandable way so people can build the confidence to travel again. When we saw the comment about travel agents being a thing of the past we felt it was important to show the Minister the service we provide every day.

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“It is so important for people who want to travel to have up to date and relevant information about regulations in the UK and in their destination so it’s always a good idea to talk to a travel agent before planning a holiday – we hope that Mr Shapps agrees with this and reconsiders his comments about travel agents.”

Off Broadway Travel, a member of The Travel Network Group, took to Twitter to invite Mr Shapps to its shop on Monday, May 10, but the company is yet to receive a response from the Government official.

Gary Lewis, CEO of The Travel Network Group said: “Our Members have a wealth of knowledge and experience to help customers make the right decisions when it comes to their next holiday and more importantly, they can offer practical advice and reassurance about a lot of the questions people have – about testing, quarantine, safety measures in resorts or cancellation policies and refunds.

Lewis continued: “We have seen a behaviour shift from consumers in the way they support local businesses, rather than big organisations, so we hope that, when the time comes to book their next holiday, people can trust and support their local independent travel businesses.

“We support our Member’s initiative of inviting the Secretary of State for Transport into their shop – we are sure that this will give Mr Shapps a real understanding of the brilliant, personal service, passion and knowledge that travel agents, such as Off Broadway Travel provide their local communities with.” 

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