‘It has decimated the travel industry. I’m writing off 2020’

Inside Business podcast: Tour operator says travel will never be the same

Mary McKenna, founder of Tour America and Cruise Holidays,  had budgeted to arrange holidays for 45,000 customers this year. Photograph: iStock

Mary McKenna, founder of Tour America and Cruise Holidays, had budgeted to arrange holidays for 45,000 customers this year. Photograph: iStock

 

One of Ireland’s biggest tour operators expects this year to be a wipeout because of the impact of Covid-19 on the economy but is encouraged by early booking levels for 2021.

Speaking to Inside Business, an Irish Times podcast, Mary McKenna, founder of Tour America and Cruise Holidays, said: “It has decimated the travel industry. I’m writing off 2020. I see a bit of travel happening September or October and some travel at Christmas. But we are seeing 2021 looking OK. It’s not going to be brilliant but it’s looking like there’s going to be some travel. But travel is never going to be the same, the world’s never going to be the same.”

Ms McKenna had budgeted to arrange holidays for 45,000 customers this year, with her companies achieving annual turnover of €20 million. “It’s a loss-making year, which I’ve never had in 25 years of business.”

To counter this, Ms McKenna has set up a new brand, Zoomholidays.ie, to showcase holiday options to people in their homes.

Best two months

Separately, Rachel Doyle, founder of the family-owned Arboretum garden centres in Carlow and Wicklow said her business will lose a few million euro in revenue this year as a result of the lockdown. “We have lost the best two trading months of the year for us. I don’t know what’s going to happen for Christmas. We do breakfast with Santa, supper with Santa, he arrives by helicopter, we’d have thousands of kids here. None of that is going to happen this year. Those are the problems that we’re having to look at.”

On a brighter note, Ms Doyle has reported a 400 per cent increase in online sales, with people from around the country ordering plants, barbecues and furniture from the company. “It’s been phenomenal,” she said. “People now have the gardening bug, which is great.”

The Arboretum in Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow reopened its shop on Monday, with people queuing from 7am. However, its playground and gardens are closed and it is only doing takeaway food. Its centre in Wicklow is due to open on Thursday.

Ms Doyle called for the Government to waive commercial rates for businesses for 12 months to help companies survive the impact of the virus on consumer activity, and for zero interest loans to be made available to SMEs. “We bailed out the banks, it’s now time for the banks to bail us out.”