Joint managing director of Holbeache Travel near Stourbridge, Birmingham, Lucy Hall looks back at 25 years in travel. Juliet Dennis reports.
Q. How did the business start 35 years ago?
A. Roger Lunn, joint managing director, started the business. He had a passion for travel and started it in a portacabin in a yard near the town centre. Then he moved it into shop premises in a small parade of shops and it’s been there ever since. It started off selling mainly business travel. We used to do the travel for Wolverhampton University. Now it’s mainly leisure travel. Roger is retired but still comes to meetings and is joint owner.
Q. When did you join?
A. I started on a YTS (Youth Training Scheme) 25 years ago. I was doing a travel and tourism course at Dudley College and came to Holbeache Travel to do work experience. Roger took me on after my course finished. I didn’t expect that. I was 17! I’ve been the manager for about 15 years. I went into partnership with Roger in June last year because I have put so much effort into the business – and I didn’t want someone else to take it over!
Q. What changes have you seen over the years?
A. We had computers when I started, but no internet or email. Everything was done on the phone. It was a different way of working, I don’t think it was any harder; it’s more challenging today with all the red tape and regulation. Customers were easier to please in the past and you didn’t have all the competition online.
We’ve also seen a massive switch in people coming from online to book with us over the last couple of years. We are getting even younger people, in their 20s, coming to us. It’s probably because of all our advertising on social media and from this September, we started our sponsorship of the local football team, Wordsley Wasps.
Q. How do you drive new sales?
A. We use social media and this year we did a pop-up shop at intu Merry Hill shopping centre in Birmingham, which is about three miles from us, with some funding from Jet2. It was really worthwhile to get our name out there and we picked up new business.
We’ve even had people travelling to us from the other side of Wolverhampton. You have to try things and see if they work. The fact we have been here 35 years really helps and we’ve had a phenomenal few years. Business is growing every year so we must be doing something right.
Q. What’s been the most challenging time?
A. The financial crisis of 2008-09 was a struggle. We had to let some staff members go and downscale to save what we had, but we got through it.
Q. How did the Thomas Cook collapse affect you?
A. We worked around the clock trying to sort customers out. We had people who were not our customers coming to our agency with their kids and suitcases in the car to see if we could help. It was so sad. We have helped clients sort out claim forms for the Civil Aviation Authority. We also had our own customers in resort and due to go away. We are still waiting for our money back from the CAA. I cannot praise our staff enough.
‘We gave out goodie bags to customers’
To mark our 35th birthday we had an open house for all customers who wanted to come. We promoted it on Facebook and we had loyal and new customers come along and the under-12s team, from the Wembley Wasps football club, that we sponsor.
We laid on Prosecco (and got through 24 bottles on the day), food and goodie bags and we did a competition to win Jet2.com flights. The event was supposed to run from 11am until 2pm, but it carried on until after 5pm and we did some bookings from it during the day.
We put money off vouchers, luggage labels and sweets in the goodie bags and we’ve had sales come through as a result, including a river cruise booking. We are still getting people coming in with their vouchers to book.
Roger (founder) also came down with his family, including his daughter, who used to work here. We’ve also had a staff night out to celebrate. The team is like my family and Roger is like my surrogate dad!
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