“Booking someone’s holiday is like booking their dream,” says Michelle Riley, Manager at Althams Travel in Blackburn town centre.
This year, the company celebrates 145 years in business and, believe it or not, it started as a tea merchant!
The company was formed in 1874 by Abraham Altham selling groceries and general hardware. By 1880, Althams Stores had 60 shops and had five brands of tea, all blended and packed under their own label. Customers buying the best brands were given tea cheques which could be put towards the cost of rail tickets which were sold in many branches.
Althams ran railway excursions to seaside resorts, which rose in popularity and over the years a small number of self-contained travel offices were opened.
During 1967, with the growth in supermarkets and other economic conditions, a number of stores closed, and the remaining shops were converted to travel agencies. But thanks to the personal approach to travel, the travel company has since gone on to win the title of ‘Best Large Agency’in the North West and North Wales Agent Achievement Award for the 9th time in 12 years.
Although the rise of the internet has meant less footfall in town centres, Michelle – who has worked for the company for 30 years – believes travel agencies can still offer something you can’t find online.
“It’s easy to sell a holiday, but selling the right holiday requires experience and knowledge. Our customers work hard, and it’s important that we help them choose the right place for them.
“As a team we have travelled a lot and we can offer advice on where is the right destination for you. We offer a personal service and have worldwide knowledge. We offer a service you can’t get online.
“We can take away the stress of finding a destination within your budget. We can also arrange everything else you require – like transfers, excursions, boarding passes, visas and currency – so you can just sit back and relax.
Michelle, based at the Darwen Street shop in Blackburn town centre, said: “We still have a lot of loyal customers who have booked holidays with us for the last 30 years, and now we are booking holidays for their children and grandchildren. We get to know our customers and we like to think it’s more like booking a holiday with a friend than a stranger.
“Because we are an independent company, we aren’t tied to a specific tour operator and we have access to exclusive deals. The welfare of our customers is always our first priority and I hope the company will still be around in another 145 years.”