A corner of Spalding’s Market Place is ready to whisk clients off to distant lands once seen as only reachable by TV travellers like Michael Palin.
Spalding Travel has taken flight into an exciting new era brought about after it was bought by the Holiday With Us group, with branches in Wisbech and March, in January 2014.
Two years later, managing director Christina Fitzpatrick moved Spalding Travel from its former home in Swan Street to a prime location in Market Place, transforming the former Drydens Jewellers shop in the process.
Christina, originally from Ely, said: “Spalding Travel is still an independent, small, family-run business, owned by myself.
“When I took it over, it was a challenge to bring new business into the firm as the travel agency was in a quiet area of Spalding.
“So what we did was introduce dynamic package holidays, with flights, accomodation and transfers, to sell to our clients.
When Spalding Travel became available, I saw it as a good opportunity to bring to the town what works well in Wisbech and MarchChristina Fitzpatrick, managing director, Spalding Travel
“It brought a whole new concept to the high street, at a price which makes us highly competitive with online holiday operators.”
Spalding Travel’s own history started in the town more than 50 years ago, primarily offering its clients holidays with independent tour operators.
But its deal with Holiday With Us Group, in which Christina is supported by her husband Steven Fitzpatrick, allowed Spalding Travel to expand into both the family breaks and luxury travel markets as well.
Christina said: “If our clients want something special and different, we don’t have to ask a specialist travel agent to come in and speak to us any more.
“Instead, clients can have a private appointment with us to talk about their individual needs.
“Then we can create a package by using different suppliers or hotels and sell it to the client in a way that saves them money.
“We also sell packages from other holiday companies as a broker, researching the market to find the best prices and using a wider range of tour operators than anyone else.
“This ensures that the clients have the best product to suit their needs.”
Christina revealed that across Spalding Travel and the two Holiday With Us branches within the group, its 17 staff have a total of more than 250 years’ experience in the holiday industry between them.
As for herself, Christina started out as a trainee travel agent in 1997 and went on to cross paths with assistant manager of Spalding Travel, Suzy Bulmer, during her career.
Christina said: “Many years ago, I worked with Suzy at a travel firm which was bought out by a competitor.
“Then I went off and did some travelling before coming back home and working for different companies, getting a huge amount of experience on how a tour operator works and how to package products together.
“So when Spalding Travel became available, I saw it as a good opportunity to bring to the town what works well in Wisbech and March.
“It’s worked fantastically well and our staff do quite a lot of training, enabling them to go abroad to get first-hand knowledge of the destinations we offer to our clients.”
The next stage of Spalding Travel’s evolution happens next month with the opening of a new Luxury Lounge where potential clients can watch videos and briefings on their chosen destination or hotel.
Christina said: “We’re going to send out invitations to 800 people who qualify for the high-end market, asking them to come along to the lounge if they want a holiday that’s different and special.”
Many more people know where Spalding Travel is now after reality TV star Josh Patterson opened its new travel bureau in December.
The Made in Chelsea pin-up, known as “JP” in the Channel 4 series, cut the ribbon at the travel operator’s new office in Market Place, with a mixture of teenage fans and curious shoppers watching on.
Managing director Christina Fitzpatrick said: “The opening made people talk about us and let them know that we had moved into the town centre.
“It’s a great place for us to offer people so much choice.”
• Next week’s featured business will be Passiflora’s of Crowland.