Thirty years ago today, on Saturday 12 February 1994 we officially opened our first travel shop on Berkhamsted High Street. Our key principles are the same as when we started, with a keen emphasis on choice, expert unbiased advice and working with some of the best companies in the business.
These for us have been non-negotiables, even as the industry has changed, where we have faced significant challenges like the Icelandic volcano, 9/11 or the Covid Pandemic, along with outside factors many predicted would kill the profession – such as low-cost airlines and the widespread adoption of the internet. However, there is never a substitute to talking to someone who is knowledgeable, takes the time to know what you like and can match that to an experience we know you’ll love.
Business has been humming since a Berkhamsted couple opened the doors in December of a new travel agency in the town’s High Street. Residents have given a warm welcome to this independent outlet run by local people. ‘As we are not owned or controlled by a major tour operator, we are able to give a wide range of choice and independent unbiased advice,’ said co-proprietor Jackie Steadman.
With Jackie at the helm, the Berkhamsted branch has three multi-experienced staff all living within the local area – Gillian Wood, Michelle Turbutt and Pat Barnard, who between them have over 50 years of experience in the travel business, each having worked in one of the country’s big-name retailers.
‘We rack about 750 ABTA tour operator brochures, and unlike the major multiples are not motivated and incentivised by commission levels,’ said David. ‘We can give the customer choice and an individual service. People say there is a different feeling when they walk into a Traveltime shop. We can arrange not only packaged holidays but also flight only at very competitive prices or even tailor-made holidays to suit the individual needs’.
Once the retail side of the business has built up, the plan is to extend the range of services to offer ‘Business House’ facilities to small local companies who may not be getting the right level of service from their existing supplier. Both Jackie and David have travelled extensively and believe they understand the business traveller’s needs.
There will be a formal opening day on Saturday, February 12 and Mayer of Dacorum Councillor Catherine Appleby has agreed to perform the ceremony at 2.15pm. During the day the branch will host various children’s activities with Disney characters, balloons and lollipops and for the adults there will be canapes and champagne at lunchtime and refreshments all day. More than 300 invitations have gone out to local people and businesses.
Traveltime is great towards families and young children. Each branch has a children’s activity centre which keeps the young ones happily occupied while parents can browse and book their holidays. Jackie and David understand the needs of parents as they have an 18-month-old son, James.
Traveltime has a special family insurance policy at £54.50 for 17 days which covers two adults and unlimited dependent children under the age of 18. Overall, pricing by Traveltime is competitive with the large multiple chains.
TravelTime regularly issues its own newsletter with information on offers and these can be picked up at any of their shops.
Just look on the Traveltime shelves and you’ll find exotics from companies such as Abercrombie and Kent, Jules Verne, off-beat locations such as Antarctica and Bukhara, holidays for the diving enthusiast, sailing an a large selection of cruises in addition to popular locations like Cyprus, Italy and France.
In fact, if you have a travel requirement, talk to Traveltime – it could save you time.”
Yes, times have changed. Many of you will remember our old shop, which looked the same, near enough, for twenty years. The familiar wall full of brochures from a myriad of different tour operators – from some of the biggest operators such as Kuoni and Airtours, through to smaller specialists who provide an altogether different and more personalised experience. In reality, that hasn’t changed either – the names may of changed, for the big companies to Jet2, EasyJet Holidays and TUI – but it’s essentially a similar proposition – alongside some of the best specialists in the business we work with – Caribtours, Kirker Holidays, Sunvil, Beachcomber, Rainbow, Regent, Transindus and many more….
Yes, our faces have also changed over the years. Although we have always prided ourselves on having the most knowledgeable and friendly team we can. Gill has been with us from the very beginning in varying roles, taking time away to have a family and help her husband start his business, and currently keeps on top of all the admin, which has grown substantially in the last few years. To the present day – Tricia in Portugal having worked for TV Travel Shop and later Expedia, and Amanda having worked in both multiple and independent travel agencies and tour operators.
We’ll share some stories from the past thirty years on our Journal over the next few weeks – including some stories from behind the headlines! We’re also looking forward to the many events we’re planning over the coming months – more on that soon!