Having moved from China with no qualifications that were recognised in the UK, Samantha Harvey has grown her business into a three-shop chain. She tells Ben Ireland her story.
Q. Why did you move to the UK?
A. My husband Nigel was working in China as an electrical engineer and came back to the UK. I moved here to be with him and we had three children, who are now 18, 21 and 22. When I arrived in 1995, none of my qualifications were accepted in this country so I did my GCSEs in maths and English when I was 29.
Q. Why did you open a travel agency?
A. I used to work in an agency in China, but it was very different. I was arranging travel for diplomats. To come to this side of the world was a big change and a very steep learning curve. I had £800 which I used to get my first unit in Northgate, Wakefield, in 2002. It was very small. When I started I had no idea of the travel industry in the UK but I’ve learned that travel is very important to British people, so I’m glad I made the choice.
Q. What holidays do you sell a lot of?
A. Our connections with the Far East mean we do a lot of bookings for destinations such as Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Bali, Singapore and the Indian subcontinent, often multi-centres, making the most of our ability to tailor-make unique itineraries. We consider ourselves ‘specialists for the world’ and also sell a lot of USA, Italy, Canada and the United Arab Emirates.
Q. What is the agency like now?
A. We have three shops: one in Trinity Walk in Wakefield; one in Beverley in the East Riding of Yorkshire; and one in Yarm, near Middlesbrough. It’s come a long way. We are even official sponsors of Wakefield Trinity. Rugby League is huge in the town so it’s been great for us to be associated with the team. Expanding into the northeast felt like a natural progression from the original Wakefield store. Yarm is well situated, it’s a central point to many surrounding towns and villages and also has a strong sense of community.
Q. How’s life outside of travel?
A. I am very involved in the community. I’m running in the council elections on May 3 and I’m a governor at two schools. Business can be a power for good in the local community, so Oneworld Travel has raised money for cancer patients at Wakefield Hospice and Cash for Kids, which supports disabled and disadvantaged children in the area.
Q. Do you give back to staff too?
A. Yes, I think that’s very important. For our 15th anniversary last year I took 21 of our agents to Malaga. It was a bit like a fam trip. It was an opportunity to celebrate and reflect on the hard work everyone had put in.
Q. What are your plans for the future?
A. We have discussed opening new stores and looked at expanding our own tour operation, but our immediate plans are to continue to refine what we currently have and what we’re good at. We want to provide an unprecedented level of customer service, fulfil their lifelong travel dreams and enrich the communities we’re part of.
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