Burnley travel agent fears industry 'forgotten' about and many businesses face an uncertain future as new covid variant Omicron impacts UK

The travel industry has been forgotten about by the Government and many face an uncertain future as the country deals with the impact of Omicron.

That is the the view of the owner of one of Burnley's longest established and best known travel agents.

Alan Armstrong, who has run Brunlea Travel for 40 years, said that while his company could apply for a slice of the £1 billlion in support announced for businesses most impacted by the latest strain of Covid-19, it was small consolation to them.

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The money is at the local authority's discretion and Alan has already had to pay out refunds to families for cancelled holidays.

Brunlea Travel has been established in Burnley for 40 years

Alan said: "We have already had to refund 25 families for holidays booked with us they have had to cancel due to the new restrictions around quarantine and vaccinations required for children.

"I would say this pandemic has been one of the toughest times in memory for the travel industry.

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"We have ridden out recessions because we have loyal customers who always return to us and I have a strong team of staff all of whom have worked here for 15 years or more.

"We were just getting back on our feet so this has put us back again. We have been forced to dip into savings for the refunds on cancelled holidays."

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced earlier this week that the additional support will be available for businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors in England

They will be eligible for one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises, plus more than £100 million discretionary funding will be made available for local authorities to support other businesses, like Brunlea Travel.

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The government will also cover the cost of Statutory Sick Pay for covid-related absences for small and medium-sized employers across the UK

£30 million further funding will be made available through the Culture Recovery Fund, enabling more cultural organisations in England to apply for support during the winter

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At what is often their most profitable time of year, many pubs and restaurants have seen cancellations and reduced footfall as people have responded to the rise in cases ahead of Christmas, with Hospitality UK reporting that many businesses have lost 40-60% of their December trade, often their most profitable month.

Around 200,000 businesses will be eligible for business grants which will be administered by local authorities and will be available in the coming weeks.

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A beleaguered Burnley restaurant owner is running out of festive cheer this week after seeing one third of Christmas Day bookings cancel in a matter of days.

Ibby Ali, who runs Usha Indian Restaurant in Rossendale Road, had been hoping for a much needed Christmas boost but now faces another festive disaster with fears over the Omicron surge compounded by what he believes is a devastating lack of leadership from government.

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Lockdown restrictions meant Usha missed out on the busy December period last year. The restaurant, forced to shut in November, didn't open its doors again until May; a seven-month stretch Ibby called the toughest time of his career.

"Two weeks ago we were quite happy, everything was ok," he told the Express. "When we were getting a phone call it was either a takeaway or a booking, now it's for a cancellation. All the big parties in the run up to Christmas, the work parties; they've all be cancelling.

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"And now one third of Christmas Day bookings have gone."