Travel Department appoints James Coughlan as chief executive

Escorted tour operator Travel Department has announced former Abercrombie & Kent sales boss James Coughlan will succeed Sara Zimmerman as chief executive.

Coughlan was director of sales and business development at Abercrombie & Kent until June 2023 and has been working on consultancy projects in the intervening period.

He will join the operator – described as Ireland’s leading guided group holiday company – in March.

Zimmerman will remain as a shareholder and non-executive director.

The company said she has “completely re-shaped the business” during her nine-year tenure, including the recent introduction of an agency sales channel for the company’s UK business.

Coughlan is tasked with delivering “ambitious” growth plans for the business as the market for escorted touring continues to increase.

Deirdre Burns, Travel Department’s chair, said: “James’ knowledge of the UK market together with his experience in driving growth and leading teams with a high service culture made him the perfect fit to take Travel Department through to the next phase of its development.

“I want to thank Sara for her outstanding leadership of the business over the last nine years, including transitioning into private equity ownership and steering the company through the challenges of the global pandemic.”

Zimmerman said: ‘It has been an enormous privilege to lead the Travel Department team over the last nine years.

“I couldn’t have asked for a more dedicated team, more loyal customers and more supportive board and I’m extremely proud of everything we have achieved together.

“I’m also delighted to be handing over the reins to a very experienced, energetic leader who will no doubt take the business to the next level.”

Coughlan said: ‘I look forward to building on the phenomenal achievements of Sara and the team and working with them and the board to deliver the next chapter of growth for the business.”

Travel Department has more than 28 years’ experience of creating tours departing from the UK and Ireland.

Top destinations include Italy, Spain, Portugal and Croatia, plus long-haul destinations including India, South Africa, Canada, Vietnam and Japan.

It is a member of Aito, The Specialist Travel Association, and its UK tours depart from airports in London, Belfast, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

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