Founder of Moorelands Travel, Marie Shevas, tells Travel Weekly how her Brilliant Travel agency has thrived since moving from home to the high street.

Q. How did you start in travel and what made you go it alone?
A. I started in 1964 as a shorthand typist with Nairn Travel and worked my way up. I joined Travel System in Cowdenbeath in 1980, where I stayed for 20 years as the company changed hands through Brown Travel, AT Mays, and finally Thomas Cook. I managed The Business Travel Centre until it was closed down and I decided to have more control and opened Moorehead Travel in my lounge at home. I opened a high street store in Cowdenbeath in 2010 and a second shop in Kinross in 2014. We had a shop in Kelty, which opened in 2013, but this year merged with Cowdenbeath to create a superstore in the old RBS bank.

Q. Why did you decide to open a high street store?
A. I set up my business from home but knew I wanted a high street presence. In a community like Cowdenbeath, it is important to be present, and what’s better than to have a shop that people walk by and come in for a chat. Some have faced issues on the high street, but in recent years we have witnessed a resurgence. In Cowdenbeath, several independent agents have outlasted national chains.

Q. How important is personal expertise in travel?
A. Having travel experience is extremely important. When booking a holiday, I get very animated and excited when I have first-hand experience. It helps create the perfect experience for a customer. All our staff are lucky enough to have visited many places across the globe on fam trips and their own holidays so can offer that personal touch. Sarah, from our Kinross store, has travelled to the Middle East a lot, so we always know that if someone has an unusual request, or wants on-the-ground knowledge, Sarah can help.

Q. Is it easy to switch between selling different products?
A. When I was working with AT Mays we won two very different awards within a year. We sold the most flights via Concorde and the most trips to Butlins. Everyone was so confused that one agency could win both. We had a contract with Pringle and their bosses would only fly Concorde and had a lot of local Butlins group bookings. It was testament to how diverse you can be.

Q. How do you compete against the internet?
A. The internet can make things difficult for agents as it makes it look so simple for customers, but it can also be problematic. I’ve spoken to clients who have been burned by internet bookings with things not being as advertised or something missing. A holiday is not just a flight and a hotel, there are lots of things to consider like passport issues and visas. In the past, I’ve been contacted by a local person who booked online and are stuck on holiday and don’t know how to get it fixed. In those cases, I do everything I can to make it right, whether that’s rebooking accommodation or sorting paperwork. Even if they aren’t our customer to begin with, they will know for the future.


Marie’s sales tips

A smile goes a long way. Customers should feel welcome from the moment they enter.

Everyone is different. Cowdenbeath has a diverse range of people, all with different tastes

If you are an independent, make sure you have support. Brilliant Travel has been wonderful.