I originally joined the building industry as a Quantity Surveyor, years later opening a travel agency in 1978. I sold my small chain of high volume travel agencies in 1986 and resigned in 1987.
A successful restaurant venture was followed by an unsuccessful one that forced me to return to the travel industry in 1994.
That year I founded Travel Counsellors, which was the first – and is also the largest – travel home-working company in the world.
I was inspired by a book by American trend guru Faith Popcorn which predicted a rise in the number of people shopping and working from home. This gave me the idea for a new kind of travel agency: one in which people would book their holidays from the comfort of their own home.
Since those early days Travel Counsellors Ltd has enjoyed phenomenal success. While the rest of the industry battles against the internet, it continues to enjoy phenomenal growth due to its emphasis on service, rather than price. It now has over 1,700 agents in the UK and overseas.
I believe in full financial protection for the customer so in 2004 Travel Counsellors (UK) launched a Financial Trust to guarantee all client money.
Travel Counsellors became to be one of the biggest innovators in the travel industry. In 2003 the company was presented with the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, the UK’s highest business accolade.
Travel Counsellors was awarded the Queens Award for Enterprise for International Trade in 2014. They became the only travel agency to win this award.
It has the highest Net Promoter Score (NPS) in the world.
In 2014 Equistone private equity acquired a majority stake in the business, the Speakman family retaining a substantial stake.
In July 2015 I resigned as Chairman of Travel Counsellors.
I now serve as Chairman of Genus Capital and serve as a non-executive Director on various businesses. The family through their Gabriel foundation support various charities, principally Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.
I have spoken at a number of high profile seminars on customer service.
2006 travel industry Lifetime Achievement Awards.
2008 Induction into The British Travel Industry Hall of Fame in recognition of innovations and achievements within the travel industry.