A former Thomas Cook agent, who was made redundant earlier this year, has used his redundancy payout to set up his own agency – and take on three of his old Cook colleagues.
Snowdonia Travel in Colwyn Bay opened its doors for the first time on Tuesday (30 July) and becomes Brilliant Travel’s first Managed Service Travel Partner (MSTP) in Wales.
The business has been set up by Darren Owen, who started his 27-year career with Cook as a travel consultant aged 16 before working his way up to managing five Cook and Co-op stores in north Wales.
However, after Owen’s nearby Llandudno store became one of the latest casualties of Cook’s ongoing store closure programme, he has poured his efforts into setting up Snowdonia Travel, and was able to take advantage of the “depressed” high street to secure a prime spot in the town centre offering in-store, online and telephone booking services.
“We were really, really busy on Tuesday,” Owen told TTG. “We’ve already taken a few good bookings, including a couple of river cruises just from the window display, which is encouraging.”
Owen has already taken on three staff, two from Cook’s Llandudno store and another from a neighbouring branch. Together, they share more than 80 years’ travel industry experience.
“Working for myself is something I have always considered and being faced with redundancy gave me the push to make the leap,” said Owen. “To be able to bring my colleagues on this journey with me has made this venture even more exciting.”
Owen said he would look to extend their hours and potentially grow the team in the coming months.
“We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “We got a really great deal on the rent here – we’re in a much better location than our rivals, and we’ll be paying a fraction of the price.”
Snowdonia’s initial focus, said Owen, would be on river and luxury cruise, as well as escorted touring. He also explained his decision to partner with Brilliant Travel, Barrhead Travel’s support network for new agencies and homeworkers, was influenced by the range of product – particularly cruise – it makes available to package.
“We shopped around,” said Owen. “I think what Brilliant Travel offers will allow us to differentiate ourselves from some of our competitors like Hays [Travel].”
Brilliant Travel director Linda Pyle joined the Snowdonia team for the celebrations on Tuesday.
“Darren’s team of experienced agents, combined with our dynamic package offering and solid support system, is the perfect recipe for a successful agency,” she said. “I wish him all the best in his new and exciting venture.”