‘Holidays have been banned – but I made thousands selling travel in lockdown’

Mr Kelbie said his biggest commission had come from a booking to Mykonos this summer, which made him £1,800. He had contacted an Airbnb villa owner and negotiated the price from £19,000 to £13,000 on behalf of his client.

James Ferrara, founder of InteleTravel, said the business model had “offered a lifeline” to people at a time of record layoffs, particularly in the tourism industry. He said: “We have doubled travel sales since 2019, even while travel was at a standstill. People will always book a holiday.”

Mr Ferrara predicted a holiday boom in 2021 would make next year even more lucrative for his firm’s agents.

While there may be optimism for the new year, for now, people are stuck at home and many new travel agents have been unable to make money.

Emily Heath, a 56-year-old carer whose name has been changed, is more than £300 out of pocket since she joined InteleTravel in June. She had lost clients and needed income.

She said she was lured in by online advertisements promising big profits from a travel boom this summer as lockdown was lifted. But she found that the membership costs added up and she struggled to make a profit as people were low on money because of the pandemic and were not booking holidays.

“I haven’t sold any travel,” she said. “I tried but I was called a scammer because you are aiming at people who are desperate and no one is travelling at the moment.”

She said she felt no pressure from InteleTravel to sell holidays as it was already making money out of her every month. Rather than being helped to sell travel, Ms Heath said she was encouraged to join webinars and training courses, all of which cost more money.

InteleTravel said it would refund anyone who signed up and did not earn more than they paid in fees during their first year. Kristen Bradley, 32, joined in May and left four months later after making a loss of more than £300.

She said: “I had to watch several ‘training videos’ before completing a quiz, and the whole training process was only around two to three hours before I could book [holidays] for other people. It is a little scary to think about how little training that is.”

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