Strictly Business: Heritage Collection Travel

I got into travel… when I was 17. I fell into it really. I was looking for a job and found an apprenticeship at Fiveways Travel in Greater Manchester and I’ve not looked back. I was going to Barbados by the end of the first year and I had only just turned 18.

I’m so pleased it was an independent agency because that opened my eyes to all the different suppliers; it was a really good introduction for my career. I later worked for Destinology, including in their retail store in Wilmslow. They sent me to Africa, which I loved. After that, all I wanted to do was sell that continent, so I went to work at Africa & Beyond in Hull.

I set up my business… in July 2020. It was something I’d always wanted to do, and after redundancy during Covid I felt like it was a real opportunity as things were opening up.

If I didn’t do it then, I never would. The business began online and we opened a shop in York city centre in January 2022. The shop came about organically and a lot earlier than I expected. The premises became free and it was perfect for what I wanted to do; to add vibrancy and excitement back to the retail experience.

I have grown the business… through the shop. We were growing slowly but surely online but not doing enough. When the shop opened, it coincided with things getting better [after the pandemic] and we’ve got a really solid client base. I would say 40% is repeat business and a quarter is referrals. I’ve really got my niche – of honeymooners and retirees; those higher-value experiential bookings.

The area of the business growing the most is… Africa. It’s obviously my background and that leads to referrals. I want people to know that we sell everything, but we seem to have a reputation for long-haul and tailor-made at the moment.

The suppliers I have the strongest relationships with are… Africa & Beyond, Beachcomber and Caribtours – I love working with them.

My proudest career achievement is… Winning an Aspire Award after the first year of having the shop. Being able to have that industry recognition was very unexpected. Coming from a tour operator back to an agency, I felt a bit out of the loop, but at the Aspire Awards there were so many people I knew coming up to congratulate me.

That was an amazing feeling and was almost as good as winning the lottery. Being part of Aspire does feel like you’re part of a gang.

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