On The Spot: We talk to the travel duo taking the U.K to far flung destinations.

Firstly, welcome to Inc & Co. It’s great to have you join our ever-growing group and we’re all looking forward to getting to know you more.

Who are you and what is your background?

Chris:
Joint Managing Director with Nick. I’ve been within the family business for around ten years, am currently a Non-Executive Director of Advantage Travel Partnership and have a background in sales, operations and property. I have a passion for people, business strategy as well as the customer experience. I love being near the water whether it moves with the tides or is frozen. 

Nick: 
Joint Managing Director with Chris. 25 years working in all aspects of Travel, I look after the following parts of the business, Business Travel, All contracts relating to travel, including travel suppliers and most IT-related contracts, insurance etc. Oversee accounts, marketing. Before Travel, which seems like a long time ago, I worked in the retail fashion industry within merchandising, sales and buying departments. My passion is skiing, having skied all across the world, I can’t think of a better way to relax. 

Who are Baldwins?

Chris:
Baldwins Travel is one of the oldest high street travel agencies in the UK. It’s a strong team of highly experienced travel professionals who are passionate about putting our clients and customers needs first. It’s been a very challenging period due to Covid19 but we have a fantastic platform to get back to doing what we do best and to grow and thrive once again. We have eight high street shops across Kent and Sussex, a brilliant corporate travel team and access to the best foreign exchange rates to share with our clients. We work closely with a very wide range of trade suppliers who help us find amazing holidays to match our client’s plans and dreams. From hiring a private jet to cruising the Norwegian Fjords, trekking through the jungle and witnessing the northern lights as well as high-tea with Giraffes in Africa or the theatre and dinner in London. Amazing is out there and we will help you live it.

Nick:
Continuing from Chris’s thoughts: Very much a family-oriented business, working with the local communities across Kent and East Sussex. Well established, Award-winning, known for having the best and most knowledgeable team. The experience of the team is key to our success.

What’s special about the Baldwins brand?

Chris:
Baldwins Travel was first established in 1895 and is a mainstay with our clients for all their travel needs. We’re very well known in the industry and have excellent relationships with our travel partners which means that we can really focus on matching our client’s requirements perfectly. It’s these successes and past performances that have enabled us to be honoured year after year as the best travel agency in London and the southeast for the last 12 years and the National Travel Agent of the year for 3 of the last four awards seasons.

How has Covid-19 affected Baldwins? What have you learnt as a company?

Chris:

The global pandemic has shown us how closely we are linked to our travel industry partners across the world. It has affected us hugely, the government support for all industries has been unprecedented but the travel industry has been arguably the worst affected being the first to be hit and likely the last to thrive again. But thrive we will. We’ve had thousands of customers’ travel plans affected and our team has really shone in incredibly challenging circumstances. They were all experts in travel before but have had to also pivot and learn about the ever-changing travel restrictions and covid testing regimes to advise clients as well of course as work incredibly hard to secure refunds for our clients from our suppliers and that has fed all the way up the chain to ground handlers in resort, airlines, hotels and everyone at every stage. All this has been going on whilst we’ve been trying to utilise the furlough scheme which we’ve only partly been able to do so as it wasn’t created with the travel industry in mind.  We’ve learnt how adaptable we can be and been reminded how incredibly important our relationships are with our suppliers and clients alike. Whilst our hands have been tied in many ways we are proud of what we have achieved and are very excited to get back on track and build back to an even better and stronger local employer.

Nick: 

Covid-19 has been devastating for the company, all our employees and its clients. I truly believe that if the government had given sufficient sector-specific support we wouldn’t be where we are today. However, we are where we are. What we have learnt is that we have a truly exceptional very loyal staff and customer base. We have to work on how we can earn more at the point of sale which, like lawyers, charge for our time. We can’t rely on the commission we earn. Our business travel team charges for its time, we should do the same with our retail division. 

What does the future look like for Baldwins?

Chris:

To reference an old mobile phone provider ‘the future is bright, the future is Inc & Co’. We have a brilliant team that has suffered a lot through the process as have our clients and of course the whole industry but we have learnt a lot. We know we need to rebuild the ‘trust’ our clients have in us and in the industry, we have a fantastic platform to build upon to thrive again and of course to diversify and enhance our digital presence with the skill and expertise not previously available to us so that’s absolutely brilliant. We will of course get back to doing what we love and that’s selling holidays and corporate travel itineraries and providing the first-class customer service that we are renowned for.

Nick:

I believe that we have set a high standard within the travel industry where many travel agencies follow our lead. We have always thought outside the box trying new initiatives, but not forgetting the core of our business which is to help clients fulfil their dreams. When the world truly opens up we are set to see the good times return as we have the most, if not the best, team in place to help our customers. The relationships we have cultivated with our team and suppliers is key to our ongoing successes.

What excites you about the travel industry?

Chris:

It’s an amazing industry where one’s competitors are supportive of each other, where we all work passionately to ensure the whole wider travel industry is ever-improving and where we all aim to enhance our clients lives through exploration, chill time, culture, adventure and family time amongst many other reasons people travel. It is truly amazing and we get a huge amount of joy from our clients and customers’ joy and experiences knowing that we have helped them achieve what they want through our dedication, interest, knowledge and professionalism.

Nick:

I know it’s a cliche, but we as a company try to make travel dreams a reality. The future is in our own hands, it’s such an amazing sector to work in. It is one of the most inclusive sectors. The reality is that people who work in the travel industry work extremely hard but play as hard. Travel is fun and always should be

What keeps you awake at night?

Chris:
Other than my two young children…? It’s about the people. It’s about our amazing team members and their job security and our clients and customers who rely upon and trust us to do the right thing and of course about our trade suppliers. We are all in it together and it has been incredibly difficult at times and some really tough decisions have had to be made. 

Nick:
I ditto Chris’s thoughts on my children….
Our mantra has always been and will always be, “What is best for the business” How can we get the best out of the travel team, how can we get the best out of relationships with our suppliers, 

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