IN­FLU­EN­TIAL WOMEN

Char­lotte Wil­liamson speaks to four in­flu­en­tial women who work in the travel in­dus­try

Woman & Home - - CONTENT -

MEET THE WOMEN WHO MAKE YOUR HOL­I­DAY DREAMS COME TRUE

JEN­NIFER ATKIN­SON, 42, IS CEO OF BRI­TISH TOUR OP­ER­A­TOR ITC TRAVEL GROUP (INSPIRINGTRAVELCOMPANY.CO.UK). SHE LIVES IN MANCH­ESTER WITH HER HUS­BAND, DAVE, A GRAPHIC DE­SIGNER, AND THEIR CHIL­DREN, FOUR-YEAR-OLD BILLY AND BELLE, TWO.

WE’RE SEE­ING A RISE IN MULTI-GEN­ER­A­TIONAL TRAVEL – WE’RE NO LONGER JUST BOOK­ING

FOR COU­PLES OR THE AV­ER­AGE 2.4 FAM­ILY. NOWA­DAYS, GRAND­PAR­ENTS, COUSINS AND FRIENDS MIGHT COME TOO. BAR­BA­DOS AND GREECE ARE OUR MOST POP­U­LAR DES­TI­NA­TIONS. THE NUM­BER ONE RE­QUIRE­MENT OUR CUS­TOMERS ASK FOR FROM A VILLA? A PRI­VATE SWIM­MING POOL. EV­ERY­ONE IS KEEN TO HAVE A BEAU­TI­FUL VIEW TOO!

THERE’S ALSO A TRAVEL TREND TO­WARDS THE EX­PER­I­MEN­TAL, WITH HOL­I­DAY­MAK­ERS KEEN TO GET UN­DER THE SKIN OF THE DES­TI­NA­TION THEY’RE VIS­IT­ING. EVEN TRA­DI­TIONAL BEACH RE­SORTS ARE TAP­PING INTO THIS BY OF­FER­ING LO­CAL AC­TIV­I­TIES, EV­ERY­THING FROM COOK­ERY CLASSES TO CON­SER­VA­TION PRO­GRAMMES.

PEO­PLE WANT TO CON­NECT WITH OTHER PEO­PLE. DUR­ING THE CREDIT CRUNCH OF 2009, THERE WAS A LOT OF TALK ABOUT EV­ERY­ONE BOOK­ING THEIR TRAVEL THOUGH THE IN­TER­NET. BUT OVER­WHELM­INGLY WE HAVE FOUND THAT PEO­PLE WANT FIRST-HAND KNOWL­EDGE, EX­PE­RI­ENCE AND RE­AS­SUR­ANCE.

I BE­CAME CEO AT 34 HAV­ING NEVER RUN A COM­PANY BE­FORE, AND IT WAS ALL DOWN TO MY NAIVETY. IF I HAD KNOWN HOW HARD IT WOULD BE, I WOULD NEVER HAVE PUT MY­SELF FOR­WARD! I STARTED AT ITC 13 YEARS AGO AS HEAD OF MAR­KET­ING. THEN, IN 2009, WHEN THE COM­PANY WAS IN DIRE FI­NAN­CIAL STRAITS, THE FOUNDER, DREW FOSTER, DIS­COV­ERED THE TER­RI­BLE NEWS HE HAD TER­MI­NAL CAN­CER. I PRE­SENTED DREW WITH MY BUSI­NESS PLAN. I FELT PAS­SION­ATELY THAT THIS WAS A GREAT BUSI­NESS, BUT IT WAS A HUGE RE­SPON­SI­BIL­ITY. THAT FIRST YEAR, THOUGH, WE BROKE EVEN.

MY CHILD­HOOD HOL­I­DAYS CON­SISTED OF US HOOK­ING UP THE CAR­A­VAN AND DRIV­ING TO AUS­TRIA – MY MOTHER IS AUS­TRIAN – OR GER­MANY. I GREW UP IN LEEDS AND WE’D ALSO GO TO SCAR­BOR­OUGH. WE WENT ON ONE EX­OTIC LONG-HAUL

TRIP TO FLORIDA, AND WHAT RE­ALLY STRUCK ME WAS THAT ALL THE COLOURS AND EVEN THE GRASS LOOKED DIF­FER­ENT. I AL­WAYS TELL OUR CUS­TOMERS TO LOOK OUT FOR THE DIF­FER­ENCES IN COLOUR AND LIGHT.

IF I COULD GO ANY­WHERE TO­MOR­ROW, I’D DO WHAT WE DID ON OUR HON­EY­MOON. WE MAR­RIED IN AUS­TRIA AND THEN WENT SKI­ING WITH FRIENDS BE­FORE END­ING UP

IN THE MAL­DIVES. IT WAS BLISS.

“On long-haul trips, the colour, light, even grass looks dif­fer­ent”

IN­DIA IS ON MY BUCKET LIST. I AM SAV­ING IT UP FOR WHEN THE CHIL­DREN CAN AP­PRE­CI­ATE IT. I WANT TO EX­PE­RI­ENCE THE CUL­TURE AS WELL AS TAKE IN SOME YOGA, WHICH I AL­READY DO – I EN­JOY THE SI­LENCE.

JU­LIA HANDS, 57, IS CHAIR­MAN

AND CEO OF HAND PICKED HO­TELS (HANDPICKEDHOTELS.CO.UK). SHE IS MAR­RIED TO GUY HANDS, AN EN­TRE­PRE­NEUR, AND THE COU­PLE HAVE FOUR GROWN-UP CHIL­DREN. SHE LIVES IN SEVENOAKS, KENT.

FROM OUR EX­PE­RI­ENCE, THE STAY­CA­TION

IS A GROW­ING TREND, AIDED IN PART BY THE AD­VERSE FOR­EIGN EX­CHANGE RATES. THE BRI­TISH COUN­TRY­SIDE, TOWNS AND CITIES HAVE SO MUCH TO OF­FER THAT THIS IS NO SUR­PRISE. GREAT BRI­TAIN IS SUCH A VAR­IED PLACE; IT IS A REAL JOY TO TRAVEL FOR JUST A COU­PLE OF HOURS AND EX­PE­RI­ENCE A NEW PART OF THE COUN­TRY – THERE IS AL­WAYS SO MUCH TO DO AND SEE.

WE MAKE OUR MENUS AS SEA­SONAL AND LO­CAL AS POS­SI­BLE – IT’S WHAT OUR GUESTS WANT. WE VERY MUCH SEE OUR HO­TELS AS BE­ING PART OF THE COM­MU­NITY IN WHICH THEY ARE BASED, AND AC­TIVELY EN­COUR­AGE OUR CHEFS TO COOK WITH LO­CAL IN­GRE­DI­ENTS. YOU SIM­PLY CAN­NOT BEAT FRESHLY PICKED LO­CAL AS­PARA­GUS OR STRAW­BER­RIES.

OUR BEDS ARE EX­CEP­TION­ALLY GOOD. THEY ARE BY HYPNOS AND IT TOOK US FIVE OR SIX AT­TEMPTS BE­FORE WE GOT THE RIGHT FOR­MULA. OUR RE­SEARCH SHOWS THAT WHAT GUESTS WANT MORE THAN ANY­THING IS A GEN­UINE WEL­COME – OTH­ER­WISE HO­TELS CAN FEEL QUITE IM­PER­SONAL – PLUS A GOOD SHOWER AND A COM­FORT­ABLE BED.

I SPENT 12 YEARS WORK­ING IN THE CITY AS A LAWYER BUT THEN TOOK A CA­REER BREAK. DUR­ING THAT PE­RIOD, IN 1999, MY HUS­BAND AND I PUR­CHASED TWO GROUPS OF HO­TELS TO CRE­ATE HAND PICKED HO­TELS, A COL­LEC­TION OF VERY IN­DI­VID­UAL HO­TELS – HENCE THE NAME – AND TWO YEARS LATER, I TOOK ON THE ROLE OF BOTH CHAIR­MAN AND CEO. OUR AIM IS TO CRE­ATE A RE­LAXED AT­MOS­PHERE FROM THE MO­MENT YOU EN­TER – FOR IT TO

BE THE KIND OF PLACE WHERE

YOU FEEL YOU CAN JUST KICK

OFF YOUR SHOES.

I READ ALL THE LET­TERS – COM­PLI­MENTS, FEED­BACK AND REC­OM­MEN­DA­TIONS – THAT WE RE­CEIVE. I LEARN SO MUCH FROM THEM ABOUT HOW OUR GUESTS PER­CEIVE US AND THERE’S AL­WAYS ROOM FOR IM­PROVE­MENT.

I DON’T HAVE A FAVOURITE HO­TEL –I AL­WAYS SAY THAT IT IS LIKE CHOOS­ING BE­TWEEN YOUR CHIL­DREN – BUT CER­TAIN HO­TELS ARE UN­DOUBT­EDLY LOVELIER AT PAR­TIC­U­LAR TIMES OF

THE YEAR. L’HORI­ZON BEACH HO­TEL AND SPA IS SIT­U­ATED RIGHT ON THE STUN­NINGLY BEAU­TI­FUL ST BRELADE’S BAY IN JER­SEY, AND ON A SUM­MER’S DAY IS UN­BEAT­ABLE. MEAN­WHILE, RHINEFIELD HOUSE HO­TEL NES­TLED IN THE NEW FOR­EST IS IN A GLO­RI­OUS PO­SI­TION WHEN THE TREES OF THE FOR­EST HAVE JUST GOT ALL THEIR NEW LEAVES.

GROW­ING UP IN KENT, WE DIDN’T HAVE A CAR SO WE DIDN’T TRAVEL MUCH – WE’D

VISIT FAM­ILY IN WALES AND, OC­CA­SION­ALLY, WE TOOK DAY TRIPS TO FRANCE. IT WAS ONLY AF­TER I’D LEFT HOME THAT I CAUGHT THE TRAVEL BUG, EX­PLOR­ING IN PAR­TIC­U­LAR FRANCE AND SPAIN. I RE­MEM­BER MY FIRST TRIP TO NEW YORK – THAT WAS WITH GUY, BE­FORE WE WERE MAR­RIED – AND IT WAS HUGELY EX­CIT­ING. IT WAS IN THE DAYS OF FRED­DIE LAKER [HE CRE­ATED LAKER AIR­WAYS, ONE OF THE FIRST NO-FRILLS AIR­LINES] AND THE EX­CHANGE RATE WAS $2.40 TO £1 – A

STU­DENT’S DREAM! THIS SUM­MER I’M PLAN­NING TO GO TO AN­DALU­SIA – I LOVE THE CITIES OF GRANADA, SEVILLE AND COR­DOBA. I ALSO

WANT TO PLAY SOME GOLF THERE, A REL­A­TIVELY NEW HOBBY. SOUTH AMER­ICA IS ON MY BUCKET LIST – I’D LOVE TO GO TO PERU AND SEE

MACHU PICCHU, AND TO AR­GENTINA AND EX­PE­RI­ENCE PATAG­O­NIA AND THE MEN­DOZA WINE RE­GION.

FOOT­BALL IS HOW I RE­LAX – I HAVE A SEA­SON TICKET TO ARSE­NAL. I ALSO LOVE WALK­ING – WE HAVE A COU­PLE OF RED FOX LABRADORS WITH BEAU­TI­FUL GINGER COATS AND I LOVE TO TAKE THEM ON WALKS IN THE KENTISH WEALD NEAR OUR HOME. AN­OTHER OF MY GREAT PLEA­SURES IS WINE – GO­ING TO WINER­IES OR SIM­PLY DRINK­ING IT WITH FRIENDS! >>

“Our clients want a warm wel­come – and comfy beds!”

NEW HALL HO­TEL & SPA IN BIRM­ING­HAM IS PART OF THE HAND PICKED HO­TELS GROUP

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