A personal reflection
It’s safe to say that this has been a horrible year. Clearly the World is now a very different place to the one in which I started the business - what seems a lifetime ago - back in 1992. The challenges of Covid-19 have shaken everything that we take for granted. Our day to day lives are no longer the same, the richness of experience sadly curtailed. The travel industry has been decimated and has been bereft of Government support. After months of crisis management, cancellations, refunds and deferrals, the future remains cloudy and uncertain. It is understandably hard to remain positive, difficult to be optimistic. But we must. As a company, will be celebrating our 30th anniversary in early 2022 and we have every intention of enjoying that great milestone together as well as many more thereafter. And what a journey it’s been so far!
It all began with a fax machine in a spare-bedroom, but the challenges were relative to the era. Correspondence with some destinations was harder still. I once waited several weeks for a letter confirming fixtures from Eastern Europe. Late amendments were often thwarted, plans were aborted, and communications delayed. No-one had mobile connectivity back in the good old days. ‘Mad Cow disease’ briefly raised its ugly head, so to speak, and that year all our Easter tournaments were cancelled. There have been so many storms both real and metaphorical that it’s hard to remember them all. Exchange rate collapses, ash clouds, Millennium computer scares, 9/11 and Brexit included.
As many of our teams will readily attest, there will always be highs and lows in sport, in business and in life. I’ve looked after teams in European Cup finals and both won and lost. We’ve helped school groups and sports teams to travel around the World and welcomed many others from distant shores to visit us here. We’ve danced in the streets with students, celebrated victories with staff and coaches and seen airports, hotels and attractions aplenty. I was even given a suitcase full of dollars as payment by a club competing in a prestigious competition on one occasion! And I hope to have learned from every experience along the way.
Despite everything that the coronavirus has thrown at us, I believe that we will bounce back better, stronger and more dynamic than ever before. The ‘Absolute COVID Guarantee’ is aimed at restoring customer confidence so you can book a trip with the maximum peace of mind. But rest assured, the most important guarantee that we can give you is our commitment to providing you with the best possible communication, service and support.
As the founder of a family-owned, longstanding independent company, I am fiercely proud of the team we have here, our ethos, passion and integrity. It is a privilege to work with a great group of people here at home and beyond, our suppliers and colleagues both near and far. But it’s also a source of huge pride and comfort that we have so many fabulous customers, many of whom we would happily call our friends, with whom we enjoy a brilliant relationship. Thank you for your loyalty, friendship and support and long may we work together in the future.
The benefits of residential trips have been well documented elsewhere, but in the present climate we should remind ourselves of what we do and why we do it. Trips and tours transform the learning experience of young people (and those not so young anymore!) and raise their aspirations. These opportunities promote resilience, risk, reward and responsibility which in turn lead to greater achievement, attainment, engagement, motivation, diversification, teambuilding, enhanced wellbeing, a sense of belonging and an increased self-confidence. If that’s not enough, they also open the door to new activities, new friendships, new life skills as well as an introduction to new cultures, new climates, new countries and new challenges.
We learn more about ourselves and others when away from home, outside of our comfort-zone and in a new environment. That’s why sports academies value overseas tours so highly and why coaches learn so much about their players abroad. But the benefit for the individual simply cannot be overstated too. As a parent (rather than as a tour company director) I was enthralled to listen to two Sixth Form pupils as they recounted the highlights of their school days at a prospective parents’ evening I was attending on behalf of my own children. The first lovingly described a rugby tour to Italy where he had immersed himself in the language, culture, passion, competition and camaraderie of the experience. The other described how the ski trip had been the standout memory, enhancing self-belief and self-confidence as a result of self-motivation in the face of adversity, achievement, independence and reward. It filled me with a huge sense of satisfaction that the trips we provide, offer life-changing experiences that can stay with you forever. Interestingly (and perhaps tellingly) my own personal highlights as a youngster included trips to France, Austria, Holland and the USA and they shaped much of what I do (and enjoy) today!
We are all needing to focus on the challenges of the here and now. But our joy must be in building for the future. To make a difference. While we are all adapting to the different procedures and regulations that confront us, we can already be planning for the next adventure. So, when it is safe to undertake trips and tours again, we will be ready. Let’s work together to enhance lives and create life experience once more, just as soon as we possibly can. Even in these difficult days, I’m looking forward to the next part of the journey and hope that you can join us too.
With thanks and all best wishes,