Hays Travel store manager recalls his best-ever booking as he celebrates 40 years in retail

Hays agent 40 years
By Linsey McNeill
Home » Hays Travel store manager recalls his best-ever booking as he celebrates 40 years in retail

Hays Travel Gateshead branch manager Colin Burns is celebrating 42 years in travel, 40 as a travel agent.

Colin, whose first travel job was with a now defunct operator Ellerman Sunflight, switched to retailing in 1983 when he joined Co-op Travelwise, which later became Co-op Travelcare.

But the last 11 years of his career have been with Hays Travel, first in the retailer’s Washington branch and most recently in Gateshead.

When he started in his first job, package holidays had only just started to take off, operators wrote down bookings in pencil and computerisation was yet to become a thing.

“Back then, we could never have coped with the numbers of people travelling now,” said Colin. “You literally had to hand write every booking, computers have helped us to grow.

“Back at Ellerman, you would write down bookings in pencil and rub them out if the deposit didn’t in five days, or over-write them in ink if they did – overbookings were very easy then!”

When asked about the highs and lows of his career to date, Colin recalled his best-ever day when a customer went into the Washington branch to book a Viking ocean cruise and spent £40,000.

“I was on the phone to Viking confirming her cruise for about £20,000 and just as I was about to hang up she said hang on, turned the page of the brochure and said she wanted to book a second cruise as well, also for about £20,000.

“Those customers still book with us too. It’s hard to pick the best moments in my career on the spot, there have been so many, but that was probably my best booking.”

Colin has only just recently discovered the pleasures of cruising for himself, having taken a P&O voyage with his wife to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary.

“We renewed our vows onboard and had a fantastic day, now Mrs B doesn’t want to do anything else, she only wants to cruise! We’ve got another P&O cruise booked for 2025 to celebrate two special birthdays.”

While Colin says there are some things he misses about the old days, such as meeting with colleagues from rival companies for nights out in town, he has no plans to retire.

“Back then, when we had an office night out, we’d call Thomson and the other operators in town and say we’re going out, why not come with us, but you wouldn’t do that now, socialising isn’t the same.

“But working in travel is good fun, it keeps you young, especially when you are working with people who are at lot younger. Some days you go home and think you can’t do this anymore, then 20 minutes later you realise it’s just one day, you get over it.

“I keep telling the girls they’ll carry me out of here in a box!”

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