Many things have changed especially the technology, but we’re still a sociable lot, says Hays Travel branch manager Colin Burns
Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me! Well, it’s more of a happy anniversary really, as this month marks 40 years since I started working in the industry.
I can still remember that bright‑eyed and bushy-tailed 17-year-old, full of enthusiasm and eager to get on. It got me thinking about how much has changed, not just in our industry but in the world.
Travel agents would call us up to check availability, and I would walk across a huge office space to find the flight books and accommodation charts
Imagine a world with no computers, where we did our job solely on manual systems like the telephone and with pencil and paper, and relying on the postal system to get everything where it needed to be. Believe it or not, I remember those days well!
I worked in tour operating at the time and travel agents would call us up to check the availability of specific holidays, and I would walk across a huge office space to find the flight books and accommodation charts where room types were represented by different coloured tags.
Ink in the bookings
If the holiday was available, we would pencil the names in the flights book and await the travel agent to send us a written booking form and a cheque for the deposit in the post. If the form didn’t arrive in five days, we would go back and rub the names out of the book; if it did, we would write over our pencil workings with a pen!
I remember one time being asked to stay back after work to be introduced to something that would “revolutionise” the way we did our business and being shown a Prestel set (some of you may need to Google it). And revolutionise it did, as Prestel was the beginning of computerisation. Thankfully, the hardware is a bit smaller today.
Back in the late 1970s and early 80s, a holiday abroad was still very much a luxury item that only a few could afford
And it’s not just the equipment that has changed. Back in the late 1970s and early 80s, a holiday abroad was still very much a luxury item that only a few could afford. I joined just as the package holiday market was making travel so much more affordable and numbers were growing significantly.
I remember a meeting where we were introduced to a new Thomson (Tui) product called ‘The Square Deal’ where a customer would pick just the date, destination and board basis and would only be informed of their actual resort and accommodation upon arrival overseas.
Relish the good times
There are certain things that don’t change, however. We are still a very sociable lot who love to get together as an industry at even the smallest excuse, share our experiences and look forward to brighter times over a drink or two.
And although we have endured many bad times such as wars, ash clouds, pandemics and other dark days, we always come out of them raring to go and with an amount of enthusiasm that is only matched by the public’s desire to get away.
We are still a very sociable lot who love to get together as an industry at even the smallest excuse, share our experiences and look forward to brighter times
For those just starting out in the industry, my advice would be enjoy it, relish the good times you will undoubtedly have and never give up, even when the going gets tough.
My eyes are certainly more bushy than bright nowadays but, despite how much I enjoy looking back to the start of my travel journey, I still love to look forward and try to enjoy every minute of my working days and whatever challenges they bring.
Love is in the air
Talking of being a sociable lot, Charlotte was booking a young couple the other day and, as part of the chatter between them, it emerged that this customer’s brother was single and that Charlotte would be perfect for him. Not one to miss such an opportunity, Charlotte arranged a blind date with said brother. The next day, she was at work floating around on a cloud of fluffy happiness and a second date is already arranged! Has she finally found Mr Right? It’s early days yet but the rest of the girls are already picking out hats!