Picture by Egghead06CC BY-SA 4.0

Doug Ellis, a pioneer of package holidays from the regions, died on Thursday, aged 94.

Better-known in recent decades as two-time chairman of Aston Villa Football Club, Ellis forged his career in travel in the 1940s and 1950s, owning and chairing travel businesses including Sunflight, Mato, Global, Jetway and Ellis Travel.

After the Second World War, Ellis got a job with Preston-based Frames Tours in 1946.

Spotting a growing demand for holidays abroad – not least among his former Navy colleagues – he set up his own business and by 1952 was chartering a Douglas DC-3 to operate flights from Birmingham to Palma, Majorca.

He went on to buy a 90-seat aircraft and was soon operating up to 27 flights a week to destinations including Ibiza, Menorca, Venice, Naples, Rimini, Nice, Tenerife and Gran Canaria.

Flights from Birmingham were followed by routes from Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast and Dublin.

Asked what he regarded as his greatest accomplishment, he is reported to have said: “Being the founder of the package tour holiday outside of London, so that people in the provinces did not have to go to London to get on a package tour. The travel business really made me.”

Multimillionaire Ellis branched out into other industries, including construction and brewing, before becoming chairman of Aston Villa from 1968-75 and again from 1982-2006.

Football fans dubbed him ‘Deadly Doug’ for his propensity to sack the club’s managers. He felt the nickname was unfair, reportedly saying: “Of my 13 managers, I only sacked 11 – two left of their own accord.”

His death follows that of low-cost package holiday pioneer Harry Goodman in March 2018.