Covid-19 has tipped the travel industry into turmoil, but it has not stopped Leon Ware from rolling with the punches and starting his own travel broker business.
Mr Ware and his wife, Jackie, got married in Oamaru 15 years ago and had so much fun they decided to stay.
He got a job as a travel agent at Oamaru’s Flight Centre and worked there for 14 years.
But after last year’s national lockdown Flight Centre restructured, closing its Oamaru branch as a result.
“It all happened so quickly,” he said.
Staff were given the option to work from home for the Timaru Flight Centre office, until its closure in November.
They were then given the option to work in the Christchurch or Dunedin offices or to work independently alongside Flight Centre .
Not wanting to leave the town he fell in love with, or the industry, Mr Ware took the latter opportunity.
“It’s 14 years of hard work, and I didn’t want to just end it.”
Mr Ware had always been a traveller and once he settled down, he became the next best thing – an agent.
“I just love everything about it.
“Seeing everybody, helping them work out what they want. Hopefully we’ll get that back again.”
Using Flight Centre’s systems and files, he started his independent travel broker business in January.
He had kept in touch with clients and business was slowly picking up.
With recreational global travel put on hold for the foreseeable future, Mr Ware was just adapting to the new way of travel.
“Professional help is essential for a lot of people.”
Instead of helping people book their trip to Europe, Mr Ware was helping clients navigate returning from overseas, booking managed isolation, and keeping up with the ever-changing travel credits rules and dates.
The latter was tricky because people had to use credits by a certain time – and Mr Ware was no different.
He and his wife had credit from a cancelled cruise they had planned for her 40th birthday.
Mr Ware estimated once borders opened without a mandatory quarantine, there would be a big uptake in business.
He was already receiving a lot of inquiries, with people wanting to travel to Australia and the Pacific Islands .
Many of his clients had grandchildren in other countries, or celebrations they were eager to attend.
But for now, he would focus on helping people get through the situation.
The big challenge was getting his name out and letting people know he was still there to help.
Once things took off, he planned to turn his spare bedroom into an office, and had plans to establish a website and social media presence.