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helloworld Travel’s Jo Robinson said it’s been a slow start to international travel, but there is, at least, a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. Photo: KELLEY TANTAU

Travel agent still stuck in Covid-19 ‘nightmare’

Travellers making up for lost time are booking themselves in for a two-week stay on a tropical island, marking a slow and steady return to international tourism.
But travel agents are still feeling the pinch of the pandemic, with one saying that while some businesses begin to move on, they are still stuck in the Covid-19 “nightmare”.
Jo Robinson, the co-owner of helloworld Travel in Thames, said the tourism and travel industry continued to struggle, one year since the country exited lockdown restrictions on June 9, 2020.
“I think 90 per cent of industries have overcome the financial stress Covid put on them, and some of them are actually now better off than they were pre-Covid, except the tourism and travel industry,” she said.
“We’re still living the Covid nightmare.”
Jo said it had been really challenging having no government support, apart from the 12-week subsidy last year. They were still also trying to get families reunited.
“We’re still sending the odd person overseas and still trying to get people back.
“One is going back to England in July, and I’ve been working with them for a year.

Another was one of my first clients who came in after lockdown, trying to bring his family back to New Zealand. It’s been 14 months of us trying to get his family back.”
However, the opening of the Cook Island travel bubble in May, in which travellers could fly to and from the Cook Islands quarantine-free, was a blessing for the industry, she said.
“After the Cook Island bubble was announced, we were crazy busy for the next two weeks.
“Our first clients that flew out last Saturday to Rarotonga are off on a two-week holiday, and I’ve got another lot going out for a two-week holiday this Saturday.
People are going for longer and are excited and are counting down their sleeps.”
However, travel to Australia was moving at a slower pace – although people travelling across the ditch for sports games or live shows was proving popular.
Jo said the timeline to travel returning to total normality was like shifting goalposts, but at least there was “light at the end of the tunnel now”.
Her Pollen St agency still operates between the Covid-reduced hours of 9am-2.30pm, Monday to Friday, with four staff working part-time.
They can help people redeem their airfare credit, plan a holiday, and navigate the “challenging” policies, declarations and regulations that now came with international travel.
“That support is key because we’ve had people in recently that booked things online but were struggling with connections on the phone, or changing things.
“People need that peace of mind, and they need reassurance that there is going to be someone to help them.”
Jo can be contacted at or on 07 868 9260.