Ben Ireland hears about how keeping up with the times is vital for business

The key to longevity as a travel agency is “moving with the times” says Elaine Tait, one of Kenneth Macleod Travel’s co-owners.

Along with fellow owner, and managing director, Julian Stark, she has seen the agency’s evolution in response to huge changes in the industry since 1978.

“When Kenneth started the business, it was all about attention to detail service and relationships with clients,” says Tait, who joined 36 years ago. “That hasn’t changed – but back then Majorca was the place to go from Glasgow. Customers would line up, come in and pay. It was wonderful. Now, we sell a lot more long-haul tailor-made.”

The first shop opened in Glasgow suburb Shawlands in 1978, followed by a store in Greenock in 1980 before Glasgow city centre opened its doors in 1982. A redevelopment of Shawlands led to a move to Giffnock in 1994. The booming 90s saw shops open in the Milngavie and Strathaven areas. But competition from online travel agencies in the internet age saw some shops close. Now, Kenneth Macleod Travel (KMT) has two sites – the city centre and Giffnock – while dedicated homeworker and former store manager Joan Riddell serves the Greenock area.

“We are still in those areas,” Tait explains. “You can’t stand still and watch your business go elsewhere. It’s all about moving with the times.”

A “pioneer,” according to his protégés, Macleod led groups on Royal Caribbean ships during the cruise industry’s infancy 25 years ago. Tait is following suit, with plans to take clients on a Silversea cruise.

A management buyout in December 1993 saw Tait, Stark and Simon Gemmell, who sold 12 years ago, take over from Macleod. “It was perfect timing as we were young and ambitious and Kenneth wanted to reduce his role,” recalls Tait, who said her highlights of working at the agency were opportunities to fly on Concorde and ride the Orient-Express.

Stark, who was also on the Concorde trip, joined KMT in 1983. He says: “People used to come in with a booking form and deposit cheque. You’d give an organ for that these days.”

He said the agency – an Advantage member and the only Scottish member of Aito – has moved to selling higher-end holidays recently, but is in the process of a “future-proofing” project to attract younger clients.

“The changes are what keeps it exciting,” Stark says. “I’ve booked people to Rwanda and Outer Mongolia. We couldn’t do that 40 years ago.”

The “family-like” team of staff – which has a collective 316 years’ experience in travel – has also been crucial, he says. “Staff have been with us for an average of about 20 years – we have this saying that you know when someone is a KMT person.”

There are no major events planned to mark the agency’s birthday this month. They’re too busy preparing for the next major change.