Two of travel’s brightest young prospects were honoured for their achievements at the annual travel industry Hall of Fame awards last night in London.
Tom O’Connor, Travelzoo head of sales, scooped the award for best young manager and cruise118 founder and director James Cole was named young entrepreneur of the year.
The two individual awards marked the remarkable rise of two online travel companies that have only been in existence in the UK for six and two and a half years respectively.
O’Connor was one of the original three employee of travel deals publisher Travelzoo in the UK and he said the award was testament to how the firm has established itself in the industry as it closes in on 2.4 million UK subscribers, a landmark it is due to hit within a matter of days.
“It’s surreal and a real honour. I’m still trying to allow it to sink in,” he told Travolution’s sister title Travel Weekly at the event held at London’s Savoy hotel last night.
“It’s very fulfilling to know that all that hard work having started off with nothing; no reputation, no subscribers, and no advertisers to a business that will turn over £15 million has been recognised.”
O’Connor said the importance of the internet in being able to get relevant deals to customers directly and quickly was being fully realised in the industry thanks to firms like Travelzoo and other who were earlier on the scene.
Cole’s awards adds to cruise118’s recent accolades, the cruise retailer having scooped two Travolution awards last September, for best cruise website and best agent website.
The firm was established by Cole and business partner Mal Barritt after the former left Thomas Cook where he briefly ran MyTravel’s Cruise Store specialist retail arm.
“It’s an exceptionally proud moment to pick up this award,” he said. “It not just for me but for the whole team by business partner Mal and everyone who has been part of cruise118 and what it’s achieved. But we are only at the start of the journey, there is a long way to go.”
Also honoured at the event was Virgin Holidays managing director Amanda Wills, who was named ambassador for sustainable tourism for her work, both private and professional with disadvantaged people in destinations and the sustainable policies she has put in place at the operator.
Willie Walsh, the former BA chief executive who now heads up new BA parent IAG following the airline’s merger with Iberia, was given the business achievement award.
The four new members of the Hall of Fame, inducted on the night, included Micky Arison, Carnival corporation chairman and chief executive, Flybe chairman Jim French, Carlson chairman Marilyn Carlson Nelson and VisitBritain chairman Christopher Rodrigues.
>Interview:Amanda Wills on having ‘the best job in travel’ [Travel Weekly]