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Suffolk travel agent describes 'bursting into tears' after making first booking since the pandemic started

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A self-employed travel agent from Suffolk has described 'bursting into tears' after securing her first booking since the pandemic, which has seen her industry having to 'scramble to survive'.

For Jenny Woods, from Hoxne, the wave of coronavirus cases sweeping across the globe in March 2020 was immediately followed by a wave of holiday cancellations as countries closed up their borders, leaving the mother-of-one out of pocket and out of work for the next two years.

“Things were going fantastically and then, suddenly, everything changed overnight,” said Mrs Woods, who has worked as a travel agent for more than 20 years.

Jenny Woods at her home office in Hoxne. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2022
Jenny Woods at her home office in Hoxne. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2022

“I was sitting in the lounge with my laptop and all the cancellations just started coming in.

“I had to start thinking about what else I could do – it was so scary because we didn’t know.”

Over the following two years – a period that saw her take up work wherever she could, including on the test-and-trace programme and as a housekeeper in holiday homes – her industry was desperately let down by the Government, she claimed.

“We’ve had to scramble around to survive,” said the 56-year-old, who lives in Eye Road.

“There’s been no industry-led support. We’ve been lumped together with the hospitality industry when we are a unique industry.

“I’m trying to speak on behalf of travel agents who have been largely ignored by the Government.”

Last month marked a turning point for Mrs Woods and her industry at large, however.

As pre-departure tests for people travelling to England were scrapped, Mrs Woods’ phone began ringing off the hook and, last week, she secured her first booking since 2020.

“People started ringing and I thought, ‘this is happening now, not in the spring but this is happening right now’.

“When I made the first booking, I just burst into tears.

“I started feeling quite emotional – the whole of the last two years just came out.

“The emotional impact of that booking was just so big.

“It was a sign to say that this is possible. It’s going to take a lot of work, but you can still have a business.

“This is the most positive that things have looked in two years.”