A FIRST class team of Bolton travel agents is celebrating winning a top award after helping holiday makers cruise their way almost four times to the moon and back.
The high-flying staff at Hays Travel in Bolton town centre are over the moon after being named best cruise store for the second year running at a glittering ceremony hosted annually by Hays Travel North West Managing Director Don Bircham to celebrate the achievements of his 150-strong team.
Over the course of 2017 the Bolton team secured bookings for 372 passengers on voyages which took them on an incredible total of 1.9 m miles – that’s almost four times to the moon and back or more than 75 times around the globe.
The amazing haul of holidays secured by the team for their customers included a £150,000 luxury holiday to the Maldives for a family-of-five.
Hays Travel Bolton store manager Toni Smith said: “The Maldives is without doubt one of our most exotic destinations, much loved by anyone who travels there and we’re thrilled to have helped this family achieve their wish to fly out to such a dream location.
“But no matter what its size every booking is equally important to us. We cater for the whole spectrum, from mini breaks to city breaks, continental Europe to the USA, the rest of the world and, of course, luxury cruises.”
The Bolton team, whose store is in The Galleria, beat nearly 30 other Hays Travel outlets across the North West, Merseyside and North Wales to scoop the top honour. And there was a double reason to celebrate when one of the store’s agents, Claire Helm, was spotlighted as being highly ranked in the top ten best performing travel consultants of the Hays Travel branches in the North West.
News of the accolades was announced at the Hays Travel North West’s annual awards evening at The Holiday Inn, Chester West, in Mold, near Chester.
Toni leads a staff of seven who she describes as ‘superstars’ of the travel and tourism industry.
She said: “This is brilliant news. My team are all so professional and friendly. They’ll go out of their way to help people find the destinations they want.”
She singled out the store’s two cruise consultants, Leonie Fisher and Arlene Sheldon, for special praise, saying their knowledge of the cruise sector is second to none and the team will now work towards their ambition to make it a hat-trick at the 2018 awards.
Don Bircham, Managing Director for Hays Travel North West said: “One of the main secrets to our success is the first-rate service which our valued staff, including Toni and her team in Bolton, give to our customers.
“At the heart of what we do is to give sound, independent travel advice and to listen to what our customers want so we book fantastic holidays which they will have looked forward to for months.
“The aim of our annual awards is to reward the hard work which goes on to make this happen which in turn ensures the company thrives.
“The firm has had a phenomenal 12 months, breaking through the £50m turnover target for the first time and this is down to the hard work and dedication of our loyal staff.
“I congratulate Toni and her team on their award which is extremely well deserved because I know they have created a hot-stop, go to destination for people in Bolton and the surrounding areas wishing to book cruise holidays of a lifetime.”
Don’s firm has just completed a major £250,000 facelift of all three of its Bolton stores in Westhoughton, Horwich and Toni’s store in the centre of Bolton which now has a dedicated ground floor cruise centre.
Toni says their new cruise centre has already developed such a good reputation that people travel from 20-30 miles away specially to benefit from the team’s completely independent advice.
Toni said: “We’ve built up such a great hard-working crew here in Bolton. Everyone is passionate about travel and knows their stuff inside out. We’re never complacent, but always keen to build and maintain good contacts, research different destinations and make sure we know all there is to know about the holidays our clients book through us.
“That applies to everywhere, from beach holidays in Benidorm to paradise isles in the Seychelles. It’s so important to us to be able to correctly and honestly answer any questions our clients ask us.”
Popular destinations of the moment include Iceland, the Caribbean and New York.
Toni said: “New York is timelessly popular, I think everyone dreams of going there at some point in their lives. In complete contrast to that, however, there has been quite a surge in bookings to Iceland over the last year, especially for three night mini-breaks which are hugely popular.”
Toni, 41, has been in the travel industry since she was aged 16 and would not do any other job.
She said: “I absolutely loved going on holiday with my parents as a child and when I was a teenager I did work experience in a travel agency. From that point on I just knew this was the career direction for me. I was lucky enough to get a job as soon as I left school and I’ve never looked back. I’ve been in the business 25 years now.”
She is proud that Hays Travel Bolton recently recruited an apprentice, Courtney Holden.
Toni said: “She joined us four months ago and is doing very well so far. It’s good to see someone so keen to learning like I did and following in the footsteps of the older more experienced team members.”
Toni, who lives in Bury with her catering company owner husband, Daniel, has been on 13 cruises herself and is looking forward to embarking on at least two more next year, a mini cruise to Bruges, plus a trip to Venice and the Mediterranean.
She said: “I love the idea of waking up in an exciting new destination each morning of my holiday. I’ve been just about everywhere except for South Africa and Australia. My favourite place to go is the Caribbean. It’s beautiful there, a great place to chill out and relax.”
Hays Travel North West is the UK’s fastest growing independent travel agency and is set to open 12 new branches across the North West and North Wales by the middle of 2018.
A recruitment drive was recently launched to take on 60 new staff as part of major expansion plans.
To contact Hays Travel North West about current and upcoming job vacancies, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0800 215 5045.