I do like a quiz so thought I’d start this nostalgic look back with a trivia question.
What year was this?
It started with a lost whale in the Thames and ended with the execution of Saddam Hussein. In between, my ancestral home was subjected to a devastating terrorist attack, Australian naturalist Steve Irwin died from a stingray barb to the heart and the UK’s prime minister agreed to step down the following year.
Oh yes, and I started working with Holidaysplease.
It was of course 2006 and I am struggling to believe that amongst the many events of this current year, the clocking up of a 16th anniversary is one of them.
The time seems to have passed in a flash, with travel changing beyond recognition, especially the technology. The days of telexing a hotel to make a reservation, faxing confirmations, Teletext holidays and flight arrivals, looking up airline schedules in the equivalent of the yellow pages, traveller’s cheques, and multiple page paper tickets are long past.
I have been inspired by the resilience of my beloved industry that has been affected by so many life-changing occurrences; the demise of Concorde, the horrors of 9/11, the volcanic ash cloud in Iceland, the devastating effects of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, hurricanes in the US and Caribbean and the challenges still being felt from a global pandemic, which brought travel and much of life to a standstill.
I found my love for seeing the world when I was young, so life to me has always been a series of unique journeys and it was inevitable from an early age that I would build my career in travel.
I started working for my brother as a wet behind the ears 20-year-old in 1990. Not being trusted to answer the phones, I was tasked with folding promotional t-shirts for the upcoming Gay Pride and packing thousands of brochures ready to be sent out.
Great times ensued...
Escorting over 200 guys to Mardi Gras in Sydney and the Barrier Reef, whilst being followed by Sky One, when filming the ‘Australia Uncovered’ series. It was the year the Minogue sisters performed, which was a massive personal highlight.
Working with Europe’s largest LGBTQ+ tour operator at that time taught me so much, not least, how to have fun and celebrate our own individuality as well as the desire to one day work for myself.
Roles with specialist tour operators and a retail agency followed, giving me the foundation, knowledge, and drive, now I just needed the right opportunity at the right time which would include the flexibility to accommodate starting my own family.
It arrived in February 2006, when after being attracted by their ad in the trade press, I talked with the directors of the developing Holidaysplease and felt their vision was aligned with mine. My professional goal back then, which is still as valid today, has always been very simple: to offer my clients the best of everything. I just needed a client base to start offering something to!
At that time, many of HP’s enquiries were for honeymoons - a huge change for me - and I busied myself learning about the more popular island destinations, placing the Maldives and Mauritius on my bucket list, which have both since been ticked off.
My business grew, along with my knowledge and experience of more destinations. The support from head office has been unwavering. The company was only four years old when I joined, so I have seen immense changes in that time as it has grown.
I’ve been on inspiring educational trips, have attended fantastic company conferences, met some brilliant colleagues and business associates, and am proud to now be the company’s longest-serving travel advisor. 😊
Since celebrating my 10th anniversary, it was important for me to find a way of ‘giving back’ so I have donated to a different charity each year for every person I book to travel - something the company directors kindly agreed to match me £ for £ with and continue to do so.
During my time with Holidaysplease, I’ve had two children, become a single parent, moved abroad, and gained two more children along with my other half - all challenges that have helped provide the skills to continue building my business, especially through the pandemic.
I cried with clients when their special holidays were having to be amended again and again - the sheer amount of work that goes into planning each bespoke holiday and having to start all over was overwhelming at times - but it was never an option to give up or move away from the industry.
I threw myself into regrouping, trying to strengthen my business with a better online identity, and being ready when the world finally re-opened. Creating my website and personal branding has helped me engage and connect further and is one of my greatest career achievements, along with this year being nominated for Luxury Designer of the Year.
The last two years have reaffirmed that the ability to travel enhances our lives in a way that nothing else can. When I am asked what I do, my response is that ‘I help people create lifelong memories’. Experiences become those important things that will always be with us.
My loyal clients supporting my business, keeping faith, and appreciating what I do, undoubtedly helped me through the minefield of recent times and my gratitude is immeasurable.
As we emerge from the pandemic and confidence has gradually started to return, I am enjoying my work more than ever and feel blessed that I love what I do.
Sharing my knowledge and passion for helping others to get the most from their precious holiday time and create their family memories is a privilege.
Roll on the 20th anniversary.