A WIRRAL travel agent who has clocked up more than 200,000 air miles in her career is marking 30 years of working in the same store.
Construction on The Channel Tunnel was just starting, London City Airport opened its doors for the first time and tennis superstar Andy Murray was born during the year that Sarah Duncan, manager of Hays Travel in Old Chester Road, Bebington, started her travel industry career.
Sarah, 46, a mum-of-two from Eastham, was recognized at a glittering ceremony hosted annually by Hays Travel North West Managing Director Don Bircham to celebrate the achievements of his 150-strong team.
Her loyal service within the same store, helping customers across the Wirral book their holidays for three decades was rewarded with £1,000 in holiday vouchers.
Sarah said: “I love my job and I love it because you start the journey with the customer from the very beginning and then follow it through to help them enjoy their perfect holiday. You get very involved and at times you often feel like you are going on it with them.
“We get such positive feedback when we follow up with customers to see how things went and this is definitely the most rewarding part of the job.
“It’s the customers which make working here very special. I started at 16 and I am now booking holidays with the grown up children who I sent on holiday with their parents over many years when they were growing up.
“Now those babies are booking holidays with their babies and to have that sort of family loyalty from your customers makes me feel very proud and that the service we offer here is really valued.”
Sarah, whose most expensive booking to date was a three-month world cruise costing upwards of £40,000 per customer, has travelled all over the world in her career including Hong Kong, Dubai, the US, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Turkey, Cyprus, Spain, Greece and Jersey.
Some of the highlights in her career have included being one of the first guests to board and stay overnight on the brand new luxury, 17-deck P&O cruise liner Britannia, moments after it was officially named by the Queen.
She has stayed in five-star hotels including The Shangri-La in Hong Kong where she had one of the highest spec rooms with a harbour view.
Sarah said: “I remember it had this huge, extravagant lobby with marble floors and in the room there were windows from floor to ceiling.
“You pressed a button to open the curtains and they opened to reveal this amazing view of the harbor.”
Sarah was also invited aboard the Queen Mary 2 Cunard cruise ship on the Mersey in 2015 before its ‘river dance’ with two other regal vessels in the fleet, the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, when the ‘Three Queens’ met to celebrate Cunard’s 175th anniversary.
The ships performed choreographed manoeuvres which included 180 degree turns.
Sarah said: “It was very luxurious and we felt quite special going aboard when so many people had turned out to see them. There were huge crowds just watching what was going on and we had the opportunity to go aboard and have a tour.”
Lapland is Sarah’s favourite holiday destination and she visited the Finnish region with her husband Gary and their 17-year-old son Thomas when he was younger.
She has also booked a wedding there for a customer and is hoping to return with the help of the holiday vouchers she received so she can share its delights with her younger daughter Halle, six.
Don Bircham, Hays Travel North West Managing Director, said: “Sarah is an incredibly valued member of our team. She is so well-liked by her customers and they return again and again to her because they trust her with their holiday bookings.
“She works very hard with her team at the Bebington store to ensure each customer is listened to and ends up with the holiday they are dreaming of and it was extremely important to us to reward Sarah for the many dedicated years she has been doing this.”
The night was a double success for the store with the Bebington team also scooping the award for the top performing charity fundraising store.
During Sarah’s time at the Bebington travel agency, she has helped raise thousands of pounds for charity.
She said: “Our customers and the community in general have always been so supportive with our fundraising.
“Last year we did a sponsored walk from New Brighton to New Ferry dressed as babies in aid of the special care baby unit at Arrowe Park Hospital. We raised £2,000 in total with £1,000 being added in by Don.
“Another year, we organised a charity night in aid of Clatterbridge Cancer Centre and Wirral Hospice St John’s. That made £2,500 with a donation again added in by Don so raising that sort of cash had always been a proud part of my career and we couldn’t do it without the help of our loyal customers.”
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.