Knock Travel owner Doreen McKenzie had the chance to personally lobby Theresa Villiers when the secretary of state for Northern Ireland made a surprise visit to her Belfast travel agency.
McKenzie and her staff spoke to the former transport secretary about aviation tax and work needed at the Port of Belfast to improve the arrival experience for cruise passengers.
She also highlighted the difficulty of being affected by government decisions in both the UK and Ireland.Villiers met members of the Ballyhackamore Business Association, of which McKenzie is secretary and treasurer, before asking to visit the Knock Travel office.
McKenzie told Travel Weekly: “We had been picked out as an association that was a good example of retailers working together and that is how the secretary of state heard about us.
“We were really excited to welcome her even though we only got an hour’s notice.
“She was keen to learn about the issues we had and she also learned more about what we do as travel agents, which was great.
“She was surprised and delighted to learn that agents sell domestic holidays, so she left with a clearer understanding of our jobs.”
McKenzie encouraged other agents to work with fellow retailers to drive business and lobby their local MPs.
“I would urge other travel companies to be proactive in their areas. It’s best to get closer to your MPs and local authorities and get your voices heard. By working together businesses can help increase footfall and improve sales.”
The Ballyhackamore Business Association holds events for the local community and last year secured £40,000 from Belfast City Council to host events around Christmas.
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