A high flying travel agency business has landed a top industry honour after a major expansion.
Businesswoman Nia Hughes, who runs Orme Travel in Rhos-on-Sea, received a special recognition award at the 2017 Global Travel Group conference of independent agencies, held in Spain.
After five years of consistent growth from her base in Penrhyn Bay, the former Conwy Council project manager moved into the premises of Grosvenor Travel, which had closed because the owner retired.
According to Nia, she saw an opportunity to expand further and she employed two members of staff who had been made redundant by Grosvenor Travel.
Orme Travel now operates from Penrhyn Avenue in Rhos-on-Sea, with business booming thanks to bookings from existing clients of both agencies, along with new customers.
The way Orme Travel has taken off has also won praise from Colwyn Business Improvement District (BID), which aims to improve the conditions of the main business communities across the Bay of Colwyn in Colwyn Bay, Rhos-on-Sea, Old Colwyn and Mochdre.
Nia, 44, said: “Things were going well and I developed a really good customer base but my shop in Penrhyn Bay was a little out of the way.
“I saw this as an excellent opportunity to expand my business and I was also able to offer jobs to the two staff who had been made redundant, which was a good thing for us all, as they have over 35 years’ experience in the travel business between them.
“I’m glad to say they are both still working with me – Mandie Brown, who lives in Llysfaen, and Helen Walker, who lives in Rhos.”
Nia, who lives in Llandudno with her husband and has two daughters, added: “Before I went into the travel trade I worked for a number of years in local government and managed European-funded projects for Conwy County Borough Council.
“I’d done quite a bit of foreign travel myself and had always been keen to have my own business. I was able to combine the two things and do something really different when I opened Orme Travel five years ago. I have loved every minute of it.”
One of the staff who kept her job when Nia took over was Mandie Brown who started out working in travel in Denbigh and went on to manage agencies and work in Llandudno and Deganwy before spending 13 years working with the former Grosvenor agency.
She said: “It’s been brilliant to keep my job and in stay in familiar surroundings.
“It’s nice that we still have regular clients we’ve been dealing with for many years coming in to book their holidays and Orme Travel clients along with new ones.”
Orme Travel offers a wide range of travel including coach tours, cruises, escorted tours, beach short and long haul holidays, city breaks and bespoke, tailor-made itineraries.
Nia and the team have just launched a new venture, Orme Travel Tours, which will see groups of people heading for Europe and further afield.
The first group is bound for Cesenatico in Italy this September and includes escorted tours to San Marino, Ravenna, Urbino and Cesena. Clients are picked up door to door and a member of the Orme Travel team will accompany the group throughout their trip.
The next group trip will possibly be jetting off to Costa Rica next spring.
“We are proud to be an independent travel agent, which means we can offer a vast choice of holidays with scores of companies and provide impartial advice.
“However, we are also part of the Global Travel Group, a consortium which has about 400 agents across the UK, which enables us to offer the ATOL – Air Travel Organisers Licence – bond.
“It was as a member of this organisation that we won a special recognition award at the annual Global Travel Group conference at La Manga in Spain for successful expansion and change. I feel very proud of what we’ve achieved in quite a short space of time.
“Since opening in December business has been very good with us retaining Orme Travel Ltd. clients, gaining previous Grosvenor clients and attracting new ones, which is very promising for future growth. I have increased staffing hours since December and am on track to double the turnover this year.”
“I think there’s a definite trend towards people who had been booking their holidays and trips online coming back to high street travel agents like ours.
“They value the support and expert knowledge we can offer and also the way we help people to feel more secure, especially with what’s happening in the world at the moment.
“I also think people are becoming more adventurous with their holiday destinations with families, who normally went to Spain, now booking cruises, tours and much more exotic destinations such as China. They need extra support with these kind of trips, which we can provide.
“I think moving to Rhos-on-Sea was the best thing I could have done for my business. I have a great team and we have combined a lot of experience and new ideas. There’s lots of passing trade in Rhos-on-Sea and it is a very happening area where a number of the other shop owners are now my friends.
Colwyn BID project manager Anna Openshaw said: “It’s great to see an existing business, which was facing closure, being re-born and revived in this way by Nia and her fantastic team.
“Rhos-on-Sea has become an exciting place to be due to the growing number of bespoke businesses that have been moving there over the past few years and Orme Travel Ltd is to be congratulated for adding to the vibrancy of the area.”