When Lee Ainsworth was tasked with launching The Advantage Travel Partnership’s in-house tour operator, Advantage Holidays, in 2016, it became the proudest moment of his career.
“It was amazing to see the operator built from scratch from a business plan and to see the Advantage relationships flourish,” he says, now two-and-a-half years into his role as trading and product manager at the travel agent group.
This year, he has a second career highlight to add to his repertoire – being named one of the TTG 30 Under 30.
He says: “It’s another of my proudest moments. The recognition you get and the opportunities to network are incredible.”
Impressed by the initiative’s ability to connect young individuals with likeminded people from all areas of the travel industry, he adds: “I find it fascinating because I’ve only really worked with people on the tour operator and commercial side before.”
Ainsworth’s ambitions in the travel industry first surfaced during his time studying travel and tourism at college in Durham, after which he took a retail travel consultant apprenticeship in Hays Travel’s Sunderland branch.
A couple of years later Ainsworth was keen to get involved with long-haul holidays, so he became the agency’s long-haul product co-ordinator.
In that role, Los Angeles fast became his preferred long-haul destination: “It’s my favourite place on planet Earth. It’s sunny, the beaches are fantastic, there’s great food and the people are flawless.”
While Ainsworth cites people as a highlight of Los Angeles, he puts his high job satisfaction down to the range of people he works with at Advantage Holidays.
“My favourite part of the job is the people – I’m a big people person! I like working with the team at head office and all the Advantage members. Getting to know and understand colleagues on a social level makes it easier to do my job too,” he says.
Ainsworth attributes part of his success to some advice that the head of commercial at Hays Travel Sunderland shared with him after a conversation with the company’s managing director.
He explains: “He actually told me something that John Hays used to say – ‘If you can’t write it down, you can’t do it’. It means that if you can translate an idea into writing or practice, then you demonstrate understanding and can share that knowledge with others.”
His efforts in gaining a deep understanding of the travel industry over the years have placed Ainsworth in a prime position to guide young professionals looking to begin their career in travel.
He reveals his own top piece of advice: “Always try to understand something from another person’s perspective. And when you feel like you can’t do something or you don’t understand it, that’s when you should feel the best because you’re starting to challenge yourself – then you’re sure to move on to greater things."
Nick Hughes, sales director, tour operations, B2B Europe at Gold Medal and Travel 2, sponsor of Tomorrow’s Travel Leaders, says:
“The great thing about Lee is that he is a textbook example of how to do things right. Whenever young people join our industry, all us ‘old and wise’ voices give the same advice – learn as much about the business as you can, listen to advice, and grab your opportunities with both hands. There’s no doubt he has done exactly that.
“Lee’s enthusiasm really shines through, and he embodies how bright entrants can progress from the firm foundations of an apprenticeship. The idea of switching roles to gain experience can be daunting so it is good to see someone who is prepared to take a chance. Hopefully he can inspire those coming up behind him.
“I was struck by his reference to John Hays – undoubtedly one of travel’s great entrepreneurs. Keeping things simple is always best, and it’s great he’s taken those words to heart.”