It was a 30th anniversary to remember for Westoe Travel on Monday (January 28) as the family-run agency’s record-breaking January continued apace.
Owners Graeme and Joan Brett gave up their careers in insurance to set up the South Shields agency at the back of the Brett family’s newsagent in January 1989.
They initially sold London coach tickets, but customers soon started asking for hotels and rail tickets and the agency quickly flourished – and Graeme and Joan haven’t looked back.
Graeme, though, said what continued to define Westoe Travel was its strong focus on domestic holidays and latterly, long-haul travel to the US, Canada and Australasia.
“We’ve always tried to find something out of the ordinary for our customers,” said Graeme, who revealed his first holiday with Joan was a Russian twin-centre in 1981, a destination they still sell to this day.
The agency in July 2005 relocated to its own dedicated premises seven doors down the road from the newsagent, which the family finally sold in 2007, allowing Graeme’s parents to take retirement having long assisted with the business.
Westoe Travel remains a staunch family operation though, with Graeme and Joan’s children, Gillian and Martin, the third generation to work in-store. The pair returned to South Shields after their studies, in law and economics respectively, to continue the family tradition.
Its full-time staff of five is completed by Alice Appleby, who joined Westoe Travel seven-and-a-half years ago.
Tragedy struck on May 22, 2017, though when Westoe Travel apprentice Chloe Rutherford and her partner Liam Curry were killed in the Manchester Arena bombing.
“It was without doubt the worst moment of our 30 years,” Graeme told TTG. Since then, though, Westoe Travel has been instrumental in coordinating fundraising efforts for the Chloe and Liam Together Forever Trust, which has now raised more than £270,000 to help young people in the South Shields community fulfil their potential.
Graeme, who was crowned TTG Top 50 Agencies Manager of the Year last year, added while it was always difficult to celebrate the anniversary during peaks, the business had at least been rewarded with its best January to date.
“The US has been really good despite Trump and the shutdown,” said Graeme. “Escorted touring and cruising are doing well too, and we’re getting lots of interest in Australia and Canada – we had five Canada enquiries after the latest Michael Portillo rail show last week [Great Canadian Railway Journeys].”