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Q&A with independent travel agent Kate Holroyd on Covid-19, how it’s affected her business and the support she is giving her clients

By Lyndsey Thomas – 30th June 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown the biggest curveball we’ve seen in our lifetimes into the travel industry. What on earth does it mean for us as holidaymakers and how do we best navigate these choppy waters?

To try and get some clarity on the situation, I caught up with independent travel agent Kate Holroyd.  Lancashire-based Kate is an ATOL protected travel agent with 10 years of experience creating incredible bespoke holidays for her clients. She promises to turn mediocre holidays into magnificent ones and prides herself on the very best customer service every step of the way.

Q Have you ever experienced anything like this Covid-19 crisis?

No, nobody in the travel industry has ever seen anything like this. The only thing that comes close to this is the volcano eruption in Iceland.


Q What challenges is it presenting?

So many, firstly was the immediate cancellations and re-organising

Then there was the more longer-term cancellations and re-organising

Tour operators issuing refund notes over refunds, navigating that is horrendous. TUI, for example, has refunded direct clients but has paid no refunds to 3rd party partners. Puts us in a bad situation with the clients.

Now the biggest challenge we’re facing is the lack of clarity, lack of a plan coming out of lockdown.

A message of quarantine is making people nervous about booking, so business fell off a cliff.

We’re not asking for the borders to open tomorrow, we’re just in need of plans. It’s going to take weeks not days to get back up and running.

It’s like the Government is playing chicken with the tourism industry that over 4m people are in some way connected to! In order to gain political points in the Brexit negotiations.


Q How are you dealing with all this, both on a professional and a personal level?

Professionally, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with.

For me, it’s about communication, clients just want to know you’re there for them. I’m not hiding behind anything, being upfront with clients with regular comms, sending postcards, emails, even whatsapp messages.

Getting out on live videos, across my Facebook and Insta, calling out the industry failings, frustrations with the Government.

I’ve also had more invites to take part in news bulletins with the North Wests radio stations.

Personally, I have to put my own mask on first. So every day, I journal, I workout. I’m trying to show myself kindness and not be too hard on myself if I don’t do marketing, or write that blog.


Q Do you think the industry needs to change how it operates, and if so, what changes would you like to see?

The changes I would like to see are already happening, increased flexibility is a big thing. Plans change, environmental impacts like the wildfires in Australia happen and people’s preferences change.

Sustainable travel is a big one for me and I know that people are feeling more conscientious about how they’re spending their money. Our impact on the environment, on the people of places we stay.



Q As a travel agent, what support do you offer holidaymakers over and above what they would get if they had booked bits independently?

I’m ATOL protected and use providers that have good cash flow and great customer service. These are operators clients either aren’t aware of or don’t have access to.

I’m a person. You book things independently, you’re on the phone to a robot, or on a chatbot but I’m available for video chat, Twitter messages or Whatsapp, whatever works for you.

I also have no opening hours as far as emergencies are concerned, I’ve pulled all-nighters when the drones tormented Gatwick and threatened Christmas holiday departures and power cuts at Manchester.

I do the hard work for them. I research, I work with partners, I’ve been there, I create the itinerary for them, after getting to know them. They say it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill and I’m getting closer to that every day.


Q What words of support do you have for anyone worrying about making future travel plans?

Only book if you’re 100% happy. Holidays are supposed to be looked forward to and if you’re worried about x and y, you won’t be able to do that.

I have 2 measures I’m waiting for reassurance on, firstly is travel insurance, I want a policy to cover me and the family for as many eventualities as possible.

Secondly, I want to know that the country I’m travelling to has robust plans for infections. I want to know exactly what would happen if I or one of my travel companions displayed symptoms.


A MASSIVE thank you to Kate for taking the time to chat with me. I hope you find this helpful.

Lyndsey – Girl About Founder & Travel Industry Expert


If you enjoyed this article, you might want to read:

The difference between travel agents & tour operators


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