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Chamber and committees

Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee

Petitioner submission of 27 July 2021

PE1889/A - Financial support for self-employed people in the travel industry

Self-employed travel agents come under a varied umbrella of people - including but not limited to franchisees, commission-based homeworkers and independent Ltd companies.

We work for household names like Hays, Travel Counsellors, Travel PA and The Travel Franchise, to name but a small few.

We are commission-based workers, who have had no, or very little, financial support since March 2020. These commissions aren't received by ourselves until clients have travelled, and with the ongoing travel restrictions, this obviously has not happened.

Whilst I understand the UK Government has put support in place with furlough and Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS), the majority of us did not qualify.

We don't have the option to furlough as we have had to continue to work tirelessly to assist existing customers with their bookings - changes, cancellations, refunds, re-bookings, constantly changing travel advice. Furloughed staff can sit at home (doing nothing and can take another job if they want to), getting 80% of their actual pay but have fewer expenses, ie no train fare, petrol, lunches out, work clothes etc, so on a £20k salary they would get £16k – so in some cases they are actually be better off being on furlough and not working...

As self-employed travel agents with Ltd companies and working from home - we had no rateable premises and therefore didn't get the travel agent grants from the Scottish Government.

SEISS is calculated on net profit after expenses are deducted. For an easy example let’s say a self-employed travel agent got an average of £20k in commissions per year over last 3 years, and out of that they put in £8k of expenses each year. So, they’re left with average of £12k/year net profit – out of which they still have essential expenses to pay (again!) such as phone bills, internet, company insurance, stationery, printing, postage etc so that we can keep working!

Then there's those who have been self-employed for less than 3 years.

Loans have been offered - for example the UK Government backed Bounce Back Loans, however we now need to start repaying these with ZERO INCOME.

Not only this, but we are consistently in a financial deficit due to credit card fees - we need to absorb the cost of these to make the bookings, and then again when they are subsequently cancelled. Some franchisees also have monthly fees to pay, and we are contracted to continue doing so.

AND THEN there's the worries of tax, VAT, corporation tax etc.

We have effectively been shut down, even though we've had to stay open.

Our mental health is being severely affected, with many, many people I've spoken to facing bankruptcy, losing their homes, their livelihoods. Consumer confidence is at an all-time low, and yet we are expected to remain positive and friendly when at times this is virtually impossible.

We need the Scottish Government to help us as we have been left out of other financial schemes.