INDEPENDENT and other High Street travel agencies are providing a valuable service to their customers which deserves to bounce back after the pandemic.
That's the view of Dumfriesshire parliamentarians David Mundell and his son Oliver, who have been pressing for targeted financial support for the sector.
Travel agents have seen their market virtually disappear because of the global restrictions on international travel.
An increase in UK domestic holidays after lockdowns eased has failed to fill the bookings gap with jobs cut nationally and others put at risk.
The constituency MP and MSP, who have both been concerned by the challenges facing the industry, learned more about the latest developments during a visit to Annan Travel's town centre premises.
Helen Byers, proprietor of the successful independent agency, briefed them on the state of the industry.
Afterwards both politicians spoke of the personal service and advice offered by traditional travel agencies like Helen's, which employs staff with extensive experience in the industry.
Their holiday bookings are also financially protected through membership of organisations such as ABTA.
David Mundell, MP, said: “Few industries have been hit as hard by Covid restrictions than tourism, with extended bans on travel within the country and internationally.
“At times, travel businesses have been left in a position where they have had nothing to sell and no-one to sell to, but have also had to remain open to service repatriations and re-bookings, while receiving little or no financial support from the Scottish Government.
“Even now, with international travel beginning to restart, thousands of jobs are still on the line in the industry and that’s why we need an urgent plan from SNP Ministers to save jobs and for grant-funding to be made available to travel businesses here in Dumfriesshire and across Scotland.”
Oliver Mundell, MSP, said: “Small operators and independent travel agents must not be forgotten as they are important employers and have faced the brunt of continuing Covid restrictions.
“Annan Travel, for example, provides an excellent local service to customers from across south-west Scotland and Cumbria.
"This has been invaluable during the last 18 months of severe disruption because of Covid. They have been on hand to alter travel plans, give advice and are not remote like some online alternatives.
“If the future of smaller and independent travel businesses is to be secured, along with the vital jobs they generate, more grant support needs to be provided by the Scottish Government and I am calling on Ministers to step up to the plate on this.”