Agent’s fears for independents after Lyne Barlow’s £1.2m con

By Linsey McNeill
07/02/2023
Home » Agent’s fears for independents after Lyne Barlow’s £1.2m con

Northeast-based independent travel agent Mel Robson says she’s seen a ‘massive’ drop in client enquiries since Lyne Barlow was sentenced to nine years in prison for scamming clients out of £1.2m.

Mel, a member of the Hays Travel Independence Group, is concerned publicity surrounding the case is likely to have put travellers off using other independent agents, especially in County Durham where she was based.

Speaking to ITV Tyne Tees News, Mel said: “A lot of people are assuming that because one person can scam them everyone is out to scam them.

“It’s frustrating because it does impact the business. She’s put a big damper on it…she’s lost a lot of trust in agents.”

Barlow had set up her business, Lyne Barlow Independent Travel, in November 2019 and managed to con people out of an estimated £2.6m by advertising heavily discounted but non-existent holidays on social media, including Facebook.

Detective Constable Ali Blackett from the economic crime unit of Durham Police, who caught Barlow in September 2020, said: “We had independent travel agents that were saying that they were losing out of business because everybody was going to Lyne.”

Mel believes that independent agents will continue to lose business even though Barlow is now behind bars.

She told Travel Gossip: “We have noticed we have been quieter this week. We have seen a massive reduction in messages on Facebook.”

While Mel has a high street store, she said 80% of her business is generated by her Facebook posts, which bring in clients from all over the country.

“I’ve seen a lot of comments on Facebook from people saying they would not use an independent agent now,” she said. “I think people will book direct with tour operators, like Jet2, rather than risk using an agent.”

Mel said agents in the northeast are likely to be the hardest hit as that’s where the majority of Barlow’s clients live. “One of our own customers lost her honeymoon to the Maldives which she’d book with Lyne Barlow,” added Mel. “It took a lot for us to rebuild trust with her after that.”

Read more: How corrupt agent Lyne Barlow pulled off one of the biggest frauds police have ever seen

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