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Sun shining again on North Wales travel agencies

Sun shining again on North Wales travel agencies

The rise of the internet, a global recession and competition from the big holiday brands led many predicting the demise of the independent high street travel agent.

National figures showed that the sector struggled as the recession took hold and DIY holidays grew, with the number of agency closures increasing up to 2014.

But now the sector is fighting back as many travellers return to traditional agents, enticed by competitive prices, customer service and the crucial support in a crisis.

Helen Johnson and Philippa Wilcox started up Polka Dot travel agents three years ago and they now own eight shops across North and Mid Wales, and Shropshire.

Helen said: “I had been in the travel industry for 15 years with the big multiples but I was getting fed up having my wings clipped.

“It was all about selling holidays from their own holiday collection rather than getting the best for the customer.

“I was talking with a colleague in the industry and over time we decided we would go it alone.”

They started up their first agency in Oswestry three years ago followed by Wrexham and Shrewsbury, and are now up to eight stores, including Welshpool and Newtown. An agency in Llandudno is to follow shortly.

She said: “We are bucking the trend, both on the high street and in the travel sector, it is all about customer service.

“There are still a lot of people who want to come in and talk to someone, getting advice.

“In comparison with the internet there is not a price issue anymore.

“When people come in we can usually match or beat the price they are offered online.

“Also if something does go wrong or they need to make a change they can pick up the phone and talk to someone locally rather than trying to get through on an 0870 number.

“Customer service is key and it is working as we have opened eight shops in three years, now employ 30 staff, and are very busy.”

While their model is traditional they also employ modern methods.

Helen said: “We are a modern agency in that we have our own website and are active on social media, we are always looing at the latest trends.”

Ann Jones is celebrating 10 years as owner of Teithiau Menai Travel in Caernarfon and says the business is growing year on year.

he said: “The agency itself has been here for more than 20 years and I joined around 18 years ago.

“Back in 2006 I had the opportunity to buy the business and I took the risk. I had to re-mortgage my house to do it and while it was a risk it has paid off.

“When I took over the internet was becoming a trend for booking holidays and then the recession hit.

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