Your Stories: Jason Young worked as a Tesco delivery driver to keep Bromyard Travel afloat
The owner of Bromyard Travel in Herefordshire, Jason Young, tells Samantha Mayling about being featured by the BBC – and working for Tesco to help keep the agency afloat.
Q. How did you start in travel?
A. I started at 16 on a YTS [Youth Training Scheme] for Pickfords Travel in Hereford – 32 years later I am still in the industry…for the moment at least.
Q. How did you set up Bromyard Travel?
A. After I was made redundant from an independent 13 years ago, [my wife] Jackie and I decided to have a go ourselves. It was tough in a recession but worthwhile.
Q. How has the pandemic affected your business?
A. Working long days, trying to move holidays, only to again do it the next year, is demoralising. It was full throttle with money going out in refunds and a team member had to leave us at the start of the pandemic. Now we’re taking bookings mainly for 2022 and a few for this year – mostly European beach holidays and a few long-haul. People are wary in case restrictions change. It is so sad to see summer 2021 is a washout. We are open 10am-2pm, partly in the office and partly at home, while travel is restricted.
“Now we’re taking bookings mainly for 2022 and a few for this year – mostly European beach holidays and a few long-haul.”
Q. What grants or support have you had?
A. We got the self-employment grant and county council grants – although once they came in, they went back out as we had to sort refunds and pay back commissions. We’re having to use savings. We are not looking forward to winter as we’ve had two years of missed main seasons. Unless we get targeted financial support from the government, we possibly won’t make it into next year.
Q. Do you have loans to pay back?
A. Yes: a bank loan, overdraft and credit cards – the same as every travel business, and this is the main worry for everyone in our trade. We are so far into this now, it’s either repay what we owe or lose what we have. Without targeted help, our zombie businesses may not be here when travel is permitted.
“Unless we get targeted financial support from the government, we possibly won’t make it into next year.”
Q. Why did you get a Tesco delivery job last year?
A. We had nothing for household bills as the business was haemorrhaging money. It was the best thing I ever did. We live in a beautiful area on the Welsh borders; the scenery is amazing and the job has been very good for the mind. I love it – the people are great and you are part of a team. It has enabled us to pay for food, the mortgage and bills. Having something else to focus on has been good too; watching what you built up for 13 years crumble away was awful. I’ve lost a couple of stone: lifting crates and moving, you can walk 16,000 steps in a day.
Q. What is your opinion of the government’s handling of travel?
A. The change from green to amber for Portugal was disastrous. Customers do not trust the government. Why lateral flow tests are good enough for schools but not good enough for travel is another issue. The traffic light system should be red or green – none of this amber nonsense.
“I am on first-name terms with my MP, Bill Wiggin, and regularly ask him to discuss our plight in the House of Commons.”
Q. How have you helped the trade’s lobbying efforts?
A. We have all been banging on the doors of the press and contacting MPs and TV networks for months to cover stories of how we have been affected. Target [Travel Agent Reform Group Engaged Together] has been a breath of fresh air – something positive out of the doom and gloom. My emails to [chancellor] Rishi Sunak and [transport secretary] Grant Shapps get ignored and I just get standard letters. But I am on first-name terms with my MP, Bill Wiggin, and regularly ask him to discuss our plight in the House of Commons. And after being featured on the BBC, we did get more of a grant from the council so it was worth annoying MPs and councillors.
Q. How has being a Travel Trust Association member helped?
A. The TTA helped with information and send weekly emails and newsletters. They have been very proactive in checking the very small print on our business insurance to question the cover for Covid. They are a phone call away to discuss refund issues and any questions we have.
“The TTA have been very proactive in checking the very small print on our business insurance to question the cover for Covid.”
What was the reaction after your story was featured on the BBC website?
I wanted to highlight what the travel trade is going through. In a 20-mile radius of our shop, five independent travel agencies have closed since the start of the pandemic. Nobody in government understands what we have been dealing with. They do not understand how our businesses work or what we have had to do to survive. It’s time to be honest and open that our businesses may not be here to reap the rewards of recovery without targeted assistance to help us survive. I was apprehensive that speaking to the BBC would be detrimental to our business, but the reaction from customers has been nothing but positive. Messages from customers via Facebook were great; quite a few did not understand that the travel trade was being ignored. We actually made a few bookings for 2022 after the story went live so it did not put anybody off booking with us. One customer bought us a spa day so we could de-stress, and there were other gifts and messages of support. Now it’s out there, I feel happier as it’s a shared weight off my mind.
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