Westoe Travel celebrates 35 years

By Lisa James
26/01/2024
Home » Westoe Travel celebrates 35 years

Westoe Travel is marking 35 years in business this weekend.

Graeme and Joan Brett started the business on 28 January 1989, when they bought a newsagents at 134 Westoe Road South Shields, which offered Blue Line coach tickets to London.

This soon expanded to include hotels, rail travel and coach holidays in the UK. Then, after becoming ABTA members, the couple began selling package holidays.

On 4 July 2005, the agency moved to its current location, at 120 Westoe Road, with local MP David Miliband due to perform the opening ceremony on 8 July. He almost didn’t make it as he was called to a Government COBRA security council meeting following the 7/7 bombings in London the day before.

Graeme said: “David’s secretary rang to say he would not be able to attend the opening ceremony. However, as soon as the COBRA meeting finished, he drove up from London and he got here a little late – about 4.30pm – but he opened the shop.”

In 2011, Westoe Travel arranged travel for the families of X Factor contestants Jade and Perry who were in the band Little Mix.

Joan said: “We were contacted by Jade and Perry’s mams to arrange their travel to the show each week.

“South Tyneside College produced ‘Vote Little Mix’ posters and we were the collection point, with 1,000 posters distributed to residents of all ages. Shops and businesses throughout South Tyneside had posters displayed and the council and Tyne Tunnel changed the electronic road signs to say Vote Little Mix,

“The families wore ‘Vote Little Mix’ T-shirts and we, along with other businesses, sponsored them. They became the first and only girl group to win the series. We still have our framed signed Vote Little Mix t shirt and a thank you letter from Jade displayed in the shop.”

Another highlight was in May 2017 when South Shields FC went to Wembley and won the FA Vase. Westoe travel sponsored the team coach, a second coach for club officials and players’ wives, as well as arranging for supporters to travel by train and coach to Wembley in the agency’s capacity as official travel partner to transport supporters to Wembley,

“Westoe Travel sponsored Paul Stephenson’s shirt, which is proudly framed in our shop, alongside a thank you letter from South Shields FC.”

Chloe and Liam

However, the very next day, Westoe Travel’s apprentice Chloe Rutherford and boyfriend Liam Curry died in the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing.

Joan said: “The support we received from ABTA and so many people throughout the travel industry (most of whom we had never met) was amazing. Our colleagues in the travel industry and residents of South Shields helped us raise £33,107 for the families of Chloe and Liam.”

Westoe Travel started its own tour operation, Rail Adventures, in 2020 and has doubled its team since COVID, with Manager Gillian Vogel, Assistant Manager Alice Appleby, who started eleven years ago as an apprentice; Chloe Brown, Maddy Amos and apprentices Charlotte Hanson and Tia Finnigan.

Last summer, Graeme became a star of the small screen after appearing in the Amazon Original series We Are Newcastle United.

Gillian is Graeme and Joan’s daughter and started working in the business while at school to earn pocket money to go on a trip to Belgium. Son Martin also worked in the business for nearly 20 years before moving to a new role outside of travel.

Graeme said: “We will be celebrating this weekend with a series of events to thank those who have made our business such a success with travel partners, customers, local businesses, families of the team as well as a visit from local MP Emma Lewell-Buck.”

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