Northern Ireland travel firm reveals £60m sales loss due to pandemic

A Northern Ireland corporate travel company lost over £60m in sales as a result of the Covid crisis, its company accounts show.

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orld Travel Centre Ltd warned that the virus’s impact would last for several years, with no return to 2019 levels of growth for at least three years.

While it has survived the pandemic, it voiced sympathy for other firms that had shut.

In results for the year ending October 2020, revenue at the firm was £36.8m – compared to £98m the year before.

Pre-tax profits also fell from £1.2m to £84,000.

A strategic report filed with the accounts said that company activity had fallen by about 62%.

It added that the company is now operating at about 15% of its usual business.

It had also had to let staff go, with some benefiting from an “attractive voluntary redundancy scheme” but “unfortunately, lay-offs” for others with short service.

The workforce dropped from 122 to 86 during the year.

The strategic report said the firm’s directors were “very satisfied with the company’s performance, given the complete collapse in international travel due to Covid-19”. It also warned that “Brexit may hinder the return to growth in the short-term”.

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All brands and business channels had been performing well for the firm until Covid-19 put paid to almost all international travel at the beginning of March last year, the report said.

The company is based at Murray Exchange on Linfield Road in Belfast.

A spokeswoman for Selective Travel Management, the trading name for World Travel Centre, said it had been pleased to avoid losses in a very difficult trading year, even though revenues fell by more than half.

She said the Executive needed to provide clarity to the industry, including on quarantine hotels – which have already been rolled out in England for people travelling from ‘red list’ countries with high levels of coronavirus infection.

“Whilst we are feeling optimistic at the speed of the vaccination roll-out and plans for getting the UK out of lockdown, we are cautious that there needs to be more clarity from the Government on quarantine hotels, quarantine periods, testing and vaccine passports as without these, travel will continue to be restricted.

“Although we have survived the pandemic, we are saddened that many in our industry have fallen. It is therefore essential that the Government act now and provide extended support for the travel industry to enable survival and recovery.

“Government support needs to include an extension of the furlough scheme, business rates relief and other tailored support grants and regulatory measures to help with unavoidable fixed costs.”

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It comes after holiday operators hit out at the impact on the trade from comments by Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill on whether people should be booking summer breaks.

Smaller operators warned they could go out of business after the comments.

Reacting to a six-fold rise in bookings in England after Prime Minister Boris Johson unveiled his lockdown exit plan, Ms O’Neill said: “I don’t think I could stand here today and say to people it’s OK, go and book your holiday.”

Belfast Telegraph

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