Iain Shaw shares highlights from his 50-year travel career with Benjamin Coren, as he retires from his customer service manager role at Barrhead Travel.
Q. How did you get started in agency sales?
A. I started helping out on football tours in 1972 then in 1983 I set up Cambuslang Travel with two partners just outside of Glasgow. We built the business up into three branches and we also had an office specialising in telesales. We ended up employing 40 members of staff. I sold my share of the business in 1999. That business is no longer going, but at the time it was one of the bigger agencies in Scotland.
Q. What happened next?
A. After that, I had two spells at Bill McCarthy Travel with a six-month break in between. In 2004 I joined Barrhead Travel where I’ve held various managerial roles before becoming customer service manager.
Q. What changes have you seen throughout your career?
A. The main change is the technology. We had a system called viewdata and we used to contact people via a fax machine, we had no email. Social media has also changed things. You have to act faster than the days before social media – you can’t say I’ll get back in 28 days. People also say things on social media they wouldn’t say face to face. The biggest change is booking online rather than having to consult big flight seating charts and speaking to operators on the phone. The charts had all the seats on the aircraft and they would look at the chart to see if there were any seats left. Some operators even had the tickets in the office and on a late deal we would just write the ticket out and we would call hotels direct for room bookings.
Q. Do you think the digital age is a bad thing?
A. I prefer talking to people, but modern ways are great for instant access to stock, it makes the job easier.
Q. Will you miss working in the travel industry?
A. It’s a fantastic industry, I’ve seen a lot of the world thanks to my career and I love meeting people and helping customers find the right holiday. After a mortgage or a car, a holiday is probably the next biggest thing to spend money on. I’ve also met a lot of great people in the industry through my time in travel. I was the tour operator convener for the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association from 1996 to 1998 and I was also regularly attending the Abta general meetings. It’s good to be active in those organisations.
Q. What are your most memorable trips?
A. I loved visiting Australia and the Great Barrier Reef, and going on safari in Africa was amazing. I have loved every country I’ve been to, and I like to experience all the different things on offer. Bermuda is special to me
as I went there on my honeymoon 40 years ago.
Q. What are you planning to do now?
A. I’m going to take a break. I’m 68 and I’ve done my stint and I would like to do more travelling. Believe it or not, I’d like to explore more of France.
Q. Did you think you would last 50 years in travel?
A. I didn’t! I had originally trained as an engineer and I was working at Honeywell alongside doing the football trips. When the two partners eventually approached me for help with setting up the agency, it was just for help with the financing, however within a few months I was working full time.
I’ve been to three World Cups!
I started helping a friend who was doing football match trips. The company was called Cross Travel and my friend was the owner and they did trips to football matches among other travel-related services. With Cross Travel I went on the trips to games up and down the country and overseas. I acted as a rep, looking after guests at the hotel and helping them get to the games from the hotel. I started helping on the tours in about 1972.
The job took me all over Europe on football trips and I’ve been lucky enough to attend three World Cups with that job in Spain, Mexico and Germany. Some of the customers were ‘lively’ and there were one or two good stories. We once had a customer who had travelled all the way to Valencia for a Scotland game against Spain. We arrived at the venue, he sold his ticket locally and went to a nearby pub to watch the game and pocketed the profit! I’m a big football fan myself and I’m a lifetime supporter of Glasgow Rangers – I’ve been a season ticket holder for 40 years.
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