The Voice of the Cruise Industry

‘Travel agents are crucial – never give up’: Travel 1st’s Lee Ashton shares his story

Travel agents are crucial, says Travel 1st's Lee Ashton

Lee Ashton has worked in the cruise sector for many years and during the pandemic took the bold step – alongside some close associates – to start Travel 1st, a new travel agency. Here, he shares his story and message of inspiration for fellow travel agents.

“I was furloughed at the beginning of the pandemic, so began thinking about other options,” he tells Cruise Trade News.

“I reached out to Lee Evans, a friend of mine and former colleague. We spoke about setting up our own agency, and he then got in touch with his friend Greg Barratt, who has a finance background and the three of us created Travel 1st.

“Cruise is a passion of mine [and over the years] I have built great relationships with the trade. We know cruise is a perfect holiday, which provides endless opportunities for clients to enjoy their ultimate getaway – there is something for every traveller. ”

There have been many months of hard work since then, but the signs look promising, with Ashton highlighting how the agency looks to reward repeat clients.

“We offer a face-to-face mobile service for our clients, as we really value repeat customers and think it is important to give people a reason to return,” he explains.

The agency prides itself on the little, personal touches. “For example, if a customer books a trip with us, we will thank them with a bottle of wine or champagne,” says Ashton.

“We’d rather be personal and customer friendly instead of behaving like a big business and sending lots of spam emails and losing that personal touch. Repeat customers, tailormade holidays and customer satisfaction are paramount to us.

“Cruise lines have really supported me in my journey, and I work closely with many of the big names.  They offer support and are very helpful.

“For instance, they allow me to make changes, offer a 24-hour service and, overall, I find them very helpful and accommodating.”

Ashton is also buoyed by what he sees as the increasing important of travel agents in today’s world.

“Travel agents are more important than ever, especially in light of the aftermath of the pandemic. We take away the worry and any anxieties customers may have, and we are a source of reliability, providing trust where it is needed most.

“My message of inspiration would be, even though some days are tougher than others, never give up, think of the bigger picture and there is always light at the end of the tunnel.”

As for the next steps for Travel 1st, Ashton and his colleague are dreaming big. “[We will] expand through excursions, ski, and open a retail store – our sales are up by 1000 per cent.”

Sign In

Lost your password?