As Peter Goord Travel celebrates its 40th birthday, and co-owner Anthony Goord his 50th, Ben Ireland visits the family-run agency.
It’s easy for any business to claim it is at the heart of the community, but Plymouth-based Peter Goord Travel certainly backs this up.
Anthony Goord, co-owner of Peter Goord Travel in Plymouth, has a regular spot on the local radio station, writes for the local magazine and gives talks to the local Women’s Institute and Rotary clubs.
The slots aren’t advertorial – that approach is strictly forbidden on BBC Radio Devon – and Goord takes pride in sharing his knowledge of the industry he’s so proud to work in.
When Travel Weekly joined Anthony and his team for the day we sat in on his radio appearance where he knowledgeably answered questions on the evacuation of tourists from Gambia, trends he’d seen in the January peaks, the row over the cost of in-flight snacks and tourism taxes in the US.
He also fielded on-the-spot questions from members of the public, in this case about the impact of Brexit on passports and how to avoid tipping on a cruise ship.
He recalled a lot of questions when the ash cloud hit in 2010. “But the strangest question I’ve ever faced was when someone asked me if they could go bow and arrow hunting in Norway. That one put me on the spot, and you can’t, it turns out, but Europeanbowhunting.org says that if that’s your bag, you should go to Belgium,” he added
Anthony has invited guests on too, with his dad (founder of the business) among other industry figures including Wendy Wu, founder and chief executive of Wendy Wu Tours.
We also met his friends at local monthly The Plymouth Magazine, in which he has a regular column. The agency’s regular input includes manager Andrea James’ features on her trips, including a recent jaunt to Borneo, and Anthony and co were splashed on the front page in January for their 40th birthday.
Publisher Chris Girdler said: “Anthony’s columns are on interesting subjects and resonate with our 45,000 readers as they come from a well-known local travel agent.”
But the community work isn’t without its business benefits. Anthony added: “In our business, word of mouth is still the best form of advertising. We’re not in people’s faces but we’re well known and trusted because you see us talking about important issues.”
Peter Goord Travel celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. It was opened by namesake Peter Goord (Anthony’s dad) in 1977 to add to his car insurance business.
Brothers Anthony and Victor later took over and in 2011 sold the car insurance firm to Swinton and invested the cash in rebranding the agency as a Kuoni partner store.
Since then, Anthony said luxury sales have increased “massively”, including honeymoons and special occasions. Although they still take pride in selling bucket-and-spade holidays, he said booking through the agency now provides a certain “snob value” in Plymouth.
But the move was tactical, not snobbish. Anthony explained: “We were losing the package market to tour operators offering huge discounts online. We do more tailor-made now, the most popular destinations are the Americas, Far East and Australasia.”
Staff are not paid commission, which makes them more inclined to do what’s right for the customer rather than get the quick sell, according to Anthony. “We strive to be the best agency in Plymouth, whether we’re selling a day-trip to London or three weeks in the Caribbean,” he said.
A modern approach
There are eight staff at the business, which stands out with its luxury decor in between a bookies and a chip shop, away from the high street. Footfall isn’t a problem, though, as customers can park in the free 50-space car park next door.
Anthony sits on a desk alongside his staff, who each have their own “natural specialisms” such as luxury expert Andrea James and cruise aficionado Tracey Morris.
Anthony’s brother and co-owner Victor manages the agency’s online presence. “Online isn’t separate and social media isn’t a monster,” Victor said. “It’s all a shop window.”
He said Peter Goord focuses on product, not price and targets locals with its website offering. “We have to attract people who believe they’re tech-savvy, but want a helping hand and to book through a human being,” he said. “Then we direct them to our shop or phone number.”
The birthday message from the Goords is clear: personalisation, whether it’s marketing or staying in the public eye, sells.
Meet some of the team
Andrea James, manager
I got into travel…through a Youth Training Scheme at Going Places and then I moved on to Thomas Cook. I’ve been at Peter Goord for 14 years and have been manager for six years.
I specialise in…creating something more individual. We spend time with customers to get what’s right for them. I love the Maldives. It’s the one place where you think ‘this is it’.
The strangest request I’ve had…was a 70-year-old lady asking to go to watch Sumo in Japan. I booked her through Wendy Wu.
Tracey Morris, travel consultant
I got into travel because…it’s something I’ve always been interested in since I was quite young. Working in travel, I’ve been to a lot of places I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.
I specialise in…cruise. Mediterranean sailings from Southampton are the most popular. I’ve been on more than 20 cruises myself.
The strangest request I’ve had…was someone asking to go on a cargo ship to St Helena, which is in the middle of the South Atlantic.
Ben’s day at Peter Goord Travel
I felt like a valued customer from the first contact I had with Anthony, and I wasn’t buying anything. Setting up the interview, he wanted to ensure I’d get a full and interesting day to warrant the three-hour train ride from London. Anthony insisted on picking me up from the station and chauffeuring me around town for a view of the city’s famous Hoe and lighthouse before his radio slot.
We then got a very warm welcome at the magazine he contributes to before making our way to the shop, which definitely has that family feel – his mum Linda was there, doing the accounts. The staff’s focus on providing the right product over nailing the sale was evident from the get-go, which is extra important in a town where the nearest airport with a decent flight network is an hour’s drive away in Exeter. They have a clear business plan and are focusing on quality over price with the genuine desire to do right by their customers.
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