Queen's Award celebrates 20 years of trusted travel

Posted by David Speakman on

I am honoured to announce the fantastic news that we have won the 2014 Queen’s Award for Enterprise. We are so proud to have won this award for International Trade, which is the UK's most prestigious business award. This is Travel Counsellors second such win, as we were, and still are, the only travel agency ever to have received the award for innovation in 2003.

What a great way to celebrate our landmark 20th anniversary as a company. And it really makes me think about how far we have come. It all started with a book. One by American trend guru Faith Popcorn, called "The Popcorn Report" which predicted a rise in the number of people shopping from home and working from home. I read this in 1993, having already been in the travel industry for 15 years operating a chain of retail travel agents in North West England. It gave me an idea about a new kind of travel agency, one in which personal relationships flourish, where service is at the forefront, where dreams are fulfilled, where customers return time and time again, and one where experienced travel professionals could take control of their own destiny by doing what they most enjoy.

Travel Counsellors would allow the very best travel consultants to create a personal connection with customers whilst being supported by a central head office team, that would provide commercial clout, bespoke IT, compliance with Regulation and create a training and development programme that would adapt to changing customer needs. Individual Travel Counsellors could focus on selling and validating customer choice and delivering customer care and personal service to their customers.

And it worked. We took on our first agent in January 1994 – our first booking was a family of four to Mallorca. Fast forward a year and we had 20 agents running their own businesses and had achieved £1 million in sales. Customers were embracing the unique and highly personal way of booking travel – their own experienced travel professional available to them around the clock and enabling them to book holidays from the comfort of their own home. Equally, travel professionals welcomed the opportunity to shun the paperwork and smaller rewards when working in a traditional high street agency and instead run their own business, focusing on what they love and do best – selling travel, whilst also enjoying the benefits that this brought for their work/life balance.

Twenty years later we now have 1,300 Travel Counsellor franchisees supported by more than 250 staff in eight countries. We have more than 450,000 passengers annually and we have sales in excess of £400 million. It's clichéd to say it’s been hard work, creating anything worth fighting for doesn't come easy, but it's been so enjoyable and fulfilling. As the late Stephen Covey, the business philosopher, said; “live, love, work and leave a legacy”, and not only has the company hopefully achieved these goals, but many hundreds of individual Travel Counsellors have too. We have changed lives, and that more than any monetary reward is certainly something to be proud of.

So what makes us so different? Quite simply, our people. Our strength is in our customer care and the relationships we have and continue to build with our customers. In this electronically connected world with an abundance of choice, personal relationships and trust are not an anathema to this trend but an essential part in ensuring customers feel safe, reassured and cared for. We have championed a trusting relationship with the customer by being the leaders in financial protection, guaranteeing that the customer with never lose their money. Our ethos is based on treating customers as we ourselves would expect to be treated.

But it doesn't end there. We believe this trust is essential to the DNA of the company and has to permeate all our relationships, be it individual Travel Counsellors, our great staff and our customers, all of whom are our best advocates.

We have based our business on the foundations of integrity, care, trust and professionalism and a passionate desire to create a community of the very best in travel, and this fantastic recognition from the Queen’s Award is testament to this.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank our Travel Counsellors and staff for their hard work and dedication, and of course our customers for their loyalty.

Here’s to another 20 years.

 

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