Every so often you find a business that manages to match its commercial success with a level of integrity and professionalism that is sometimes hard to find.
In a world where business manuals publish complex plans on how to climb to the top, ancient military strategies are re-thought for the 21st century and social media posts endless lists on how to succeed, it is good to hear about a company which keeps its eye on the simple values of service and empathy for its clients.
Thames Travel has just been nominated as one of the top five high-end agents in London. What is remarkable is that they were pitted against some of the UK’s heavyweights and still ended up in what has become an elite club. ABTA puts the number of travel agents in the UK as 6,000 so that was quite an achievement.
At the Travel Trade Gazette awards next month, they could win first place; so how did they do it? Here’s a clue.
A couple of Sundays ago the owner Christian Green got up early and drove two boarding passes to an elderly couple who had booked with him to go to Tenerife. They live on top of Richmond Hill and were starting to become concerned about getting their travel documents in time for their trip.
Christian drove over. It was a bit of a rush because he knew he had to be back on time to referee his young son James’s soccer match later that morning but for a man with a clear idea of his priorities this was all part of the job.
‘These clients are lovely people and were looking forward to their holiday. They were worrying about the boarding passes. It was easy to fix. We regard good service as essential. We will go to almost any lengths to keep our customers happy. I actually drove one woman to the airport to make sure her trip went smoothly.’
This is a level of service is unusual in today’s business world; at least Travel Trade Gazette seem to think so otherwise they would not have put Thames Travel into the final line-up.
• As Sales Manager Ben Murtagh says, ‘This is the top accolade in our business. We have been heavily scrutinised but we are confident of our level of service and our passion for this business. Everyone here is widely travelled and can talk with credibility because we do the trips ourselves.’
• ‘We are seeing a massive increase in people who are looking for more experiential activities. Families are opting for adventures including ranches in the USA, wilderness camps in Canada and exploration in Asia rather a week in the Med. Our more adventurous clients are looking at Myanmar (Burma) and South America or even expedition ships sailing to Antarctica and French Polynesia.
At Thames Travel they like a challenge and enjoy a reputation built on the rich heritage of a family business. Christian’s parents, John and Constance Green, started the business in 1982. Christian and Claire met at University where they were both reading degrees in travel management. It was not long before Christian and Claire married. ‘I had to pester her quite a lot to start with but in the end she seemed to think it was a good idea,’ he jokes.
These days the couple deal with clients who are the children of their parents’ long-standing customers. They all go back a very long way.
Claire says, ‘I don’t know what it is about this area but people here who grow up together seem to stay friends for a lifetime. It is really impressive. We love being part of this community.’
Ben arrived last year with a seriously impressive track record and a highly developed love of international travel. He is both knowledgeable and insightful. Mirella Bygrave is just beginning her eleventh year here and still loves every minute of her day. Her enthusiasm has remained undimmed.
‘We have ten or twelve families in the immediate area who take their holidays very seriously. We are fortunate that they spread the word,’says Ben.
The third generation of the Green family, Olivia and James, attend a local primary school but already they seem to run around the office after school like it is their second home; pizzas out the back while Mum and Dad shut up shop. Future travel agents? Well, there are far worse ways to make a living….and it is probably in their blood.
Thames Travel’s new website: www.thamestravel.net
©RiverTribe Magazine 2017