Returning to travel after a 25-year break, Davies tells us that 80% of her business is from families from a Welsh background in Llanrwst, Wales
Q. Why have you returned to work in travel?
A. I was in travel about 25 years ago. I did my travel and tourism course and worked in an independent agency called Just Travel. I worked there for a few years straight from college, but then left to work for the local authority as a sports development officer. I have always kept my hand in travel.
I helped my hubbie and his friends travel to watch Wales play in Euro 2016 by booking their flights and accommodation. I wanted to go back into travel because that is where I started and I love travel. I took my first booking from home in October last year but it’s always been my dream to open a shop in my local area, which I’ve just done.
Q. Your new shop is focused on offering a bilingual service. Why is that important?
A. From the feedback I have been getting, there is no agency for 20 miles where there is Welsh spoken. I live in a very strong Welsh-speaking community. My focus at the moment is on selling holidays and selling them bilingually. My target is to get the Welsh speaking community to book with me. I would say 80% of my business is from families from a Welsh background.
It’s giving people the choice to speak their mother tongue. For many customers, they are more comfortable being able to converse in their own language and the number of those speaking Welsh is growing. If I am putting something on social media or answering phone calls, emails, or text messages I do so in Welsh first.
If clients send me booking requests in Welsh then I reply in Welsh. The only time they don’t get anything back in Welsh is when they receive standard tour operator booking information summary, which is all in English. I am working with Global Travel Group and Business Wales on that – they are going to translate some documents for me as a template.
Q. One of your passions is to help families with special needs. Are you going to cater for that market?
A. My sister has Down’s Syndrome and I feel passionately about helping people with special needs. I have worked with children with special needs for more than 20 years.
I am still working two days a week at Ysgol y Gogarth school for children with special needs. I am sporting hub officer, in charge of all the extra curricular activities. I also worked as the first national coordinator for disability football for the Welsh FA.
My passion is accessible travel. Families with special needs would like the same holidays as other families. The breaks I have booked so far have been for mum and dad to have a break from the kids, but parents have asked me about accessible holidays.
There is a definite need for family holidays for people with disabilities. With autism, the holiday has to be quite structured. If the aircraft doesn’t fly at a certain time, a child with autism could go into meltdown. I’d like to promote myself to this market. I love working with families with special needs, anything to make their lives easier and make sure they are fully accessible – but I’ve not done any bookings yet.
Q. How will you manage two jobs, working at a school and running a travel agency?
A. I am working on my own at the agency but I have sent my dad on a training course. He is going to sit in the shop when I’m at the school. My sister will also help out. She’s going to look after my brochures. She will be able to talk to customers and make tea and help me clean and tidy. It’s partly to keep her social skills going. She adores talking to people and meeting new people.
Q. What is your shop like?
A. It’s not traditional. It has shelves made out of scaffolding and a fireplace, which we found behind the painted brick walls. It has a retro feel with a sign made of metal by a local welder.
My moment in the limelight
I delayed opening my travel agency by a week so I could attend the National Eisteddfod of Wales arts and music festival in Llanrwst in Conwy County.
When I was there, I was asked at the very last minute to speak in front of a small crowd of about 50 to 60 government officials and businessmen and women, including the first minister of Wales Mark Drakeford and the Welsh government’s minister for the Welsh language Eluned Morgan.
They were there to launch a new policy on using Welsh in business and to talk about their target of reaching one million Welsh speakers by 2050.
As I am working locally and understand the importance of using Welsh for my business I was asked to say a few words. I got thrown into the limelight for all of a minute, and stood by the podium to talk about promoting language through business, unsure of what I was about to say!But it must have been okay as I got a few laughs.
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