The spotlight was shone on the trailblazers of the travel industry at our UK Travel Awards 2023 in May. Our inaugural travel awards proved to be extremely popular, and provided an ideal platform for those who have innovatively shaped the travel landscape, paving the way for unforgettable experiences and journeys.
The Leading Lights of UK Travel
What an impressive list of winners we had this year! Taking home the accolade of ‘Travel Agency Retailer of the Year’ was The Jacksonheim Boutique, which offers luxury retreats in the heart of Manchester City Centre, catering to both holidaymakers and business travellers. Offering the exclusivity of a boutique apartment blended with the convenience of hotel-like services, their accommodation reflects the welcoming and laid-back nature of Manchester itself. The Jacksonheim Boutique open their doors to guests from all walks of life, ensuring an inclusive environment for all, with a commitment to deliver an award-winning, luxury stay backed by impeccable service, irrespective of the duration of your visit.
The Jacksonheim Boutique
Industry titans Cruise Nation sailed away with ‘Best Cruise Retailer’, with the judges particularly interested in their Smart Packages, which are available for booking online or via their UK-based call centre, epitomising true value and attention to travellers’ needs, in a sea of comparison websites. Expertly blending land and cruise itineraries, they assist travellers in designing unique holiday experiences. Each package includes a luxury cruise, flights from regional airports, and hotel stays, offering an all-inclusive service that prioritises customer satisfaction and convenience.
Emerging as a powerhouse was the Actually Group, sweeping up awards for ‘Best Newcomer Travel Company’, ‘Best Travel Company – UK Breaks’, ‘Best Travel Company – Family Holidays’, and ‘Best Travel Company – Summer Holidays’. Actually Group brings five-star luxury into the heart of the UK’s most picturesque regions through their distinctive lodge experiences. Their lodges, while varied in style and unique in interior, are meticulously crafted to provide the utmost comfort to guests. The lodges masterfully blend contemporary design with welcoming interiors, epitomising elegance and luxury.
The company prioritises both customer satisfaction and environmental sustainability, embedding these principles at the core of their operations. Actually Group prides itself on its proactive environmental measures, constructing lodges that are not just sustainable, but also built to stand the test of time.
PlainSailing.com, the choice for sea lovers, was awarded ‘Best Travel Company – Sailing Holidays’. Founded in 2014, PlainSailing.com is a respected Manchester-based yacht and catamaran charter expert operating in Greece, Croatia, the Med, and the Caribbean. Offering a variety of sailing experiences, they leverage their firsthand regional knowledge to provide expert sailing advice.
Born from a desire to streamline boat chartering, PlainSailing.com has pioneered digital solutions in the industry, ensuring a simple, efficient booking process. They collaborate exclusively with top-tier professional boat operators, prioritising quality and safety, offering personalised customer service, assigning a dedicated expert to each client’s sailing holiday. PlainSailing.com is also committed to environmental sustainability, operating as a carbon-positive business and actively supporting several environmental and community projects. They exemplify ethical business practices.
As for those looking for a healthy getaway, HotelGyms clinched ‘Best Travel Company – Specialist Holidays’. Founded to address the challenge of maintaining health and fitness while travelling, HotelGyms.com stands out due to its dedication to optimising the traveller experience.
The platform offers detailed, quality information about hotel gym facilities, equipment, and conditions, providing travellers the necessary data to make informed decisions about their stay. Their mission is to enable everyone to continue their fitness routines while travelling. To achieve this, they focus not only on the variety of equipment but also on the quality and maintenance of the machines. HotelGyms.com introduces a unique feature – the GymFactor, a sophisticated tool that incorporates years of fitness geek experience and thousands of hotel gym reviews.
This state-of-the-art tool helps travellers make knowledgeable choices about their hotel gym experiences. Not only does HotelGyms.com equip travellers with better information, but it also allows direct booking on their platform, thereby ensuring a healthier, well-rounded travel experience.
GolfMatesTravel swung into victory for ‘Best Travel Company – Touring Holidays’. GolfMatesTravel boasts an impressive 20-year history of expertise in the golf travel sector, demonstrated by the outstanding reviews they’ve received from satisfied golfers worldwide. As a member of Protected Travel Services, they offer financially guaranteed holidays, ensuring total peace of mind for their clients. Their standing in the golf travel business is further exemplified by their affiliation with the International Association of Golf Tour Operators. Thanks to their solid relationships with a broad network of suppliers, GolfMatesTravel provides an unrivalled knowledge of all destinations, promising a unique and superior golfing experience to their global community of GolfMates.
Winter enthusiasts had their champion in Tourasco Group Ltd, bagging ‘Best Travel Company – Winter Holidays’. TourASCO Holidays Group (THG), an affiliate of Inteletravel and a part of the Tourasco Group Ltd, has progressed from its beginnings as a family-owned travel agency to a premier global provider of business and leisure travel. TourASCO, distinctively combining online travel services with offline regional companies, signifies a new epoch in the travel industry. This pioneering travel marketplace primarily links independent and luxury travel agents with clients seeking tailor-made, meticulously planned winter holidays.
Despite the growing trend of self-planned holidays, TourASCO provides a service utilising AI-powered travel planning that ensures an exceptional customer experience, catering to diverse lifestyle needs, budgets, and interests. With TourASCO, clients can savour expertly curated itineraries and the convenience of having every detail attended to, thereby enhancing their winter holiday experience.
Londonist DMC, the Central London-based student accommodation agency, took the award for ‘Best Travel Marketing Campaign’ by distinguishing itself with the dynamic ‘Move with Londonist’ marketing campaign in 2022. The campaign, guided by Socrates’ wisdom and Sydney J. Harris’ educational outlook, targeted 18-34-year-old students heading to London’s universities. Their four-point experience concept, encompassing panoramic views from the Shard, a thrilling climb up at the O2, a drive in a luxury car, and historic palace visits, broke the mould and pushed students beyond their comfort zones.
The campaign was a triumph, and beyond advertising metrics, boosted their excellent Trustpilot rating and culminated in a Best British Business award by the Business Reporter.
Moreover, it propelled the growth of their partnership department and led to the creation of a novel student portal, broadening students’ horizons with a wealth of local activities. Brand recognition surged, and room capacity doubled, cementing Londonist DMC’s position as a transformative force in the student travel industry.
Hot Source Creative walked away with multiple honours, including ‘Best Travel Website’, ‘Travel Blog of the Year’, and ‘Best Travel Company – City & Short Breaks’. The successful marketing campaign for DiscoverJQ.co.uk, positioned in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, distinguished itself as a lifeline for local businesses amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The innovative digital platform not only celebrated the history and allure of the area but also bolstered tourism and promoted local commerce.
Launching during a critical period, this commendable initiative combined social media marketing, email outreach, and paid advertising, amassing an impressive 10k followers across various channels. Through strategic partnerships with local businesses and tourism organisations, they amplified their reach, engaging users and inspiring exploration of the Quarter.
The campaign’s impact was such that it became the official tourism partner for the Jewellery Quarter, eventually merging with another JQ tourism company, thereby becoming the city’s sole tourism identity. Following this success, other towns have sought to emulate the campaign, leading to its expansion. They also launched a similar platform for Worcester/Worcestershire, further strengthening local businesses and invigorating UK tourism.
For those maximising the power of the digital realm, Source Travel was recognised as the ‘Best Use of Social Media – Travel’. Source Travel are transformative travel consultants redefining the holiday experience through a dynamic blend of social media savvy and client-oriented service. They’ve reimagined holiday planning as a tailor-made, hassle-free experience, all built around the traveller. Their all-encompassing service covers everything from flights and accommodations to one-of-a-kind itineraries, all impeccably organised so you can relax into your holiday dream.
What sets them apart is their mastery of social media. Their Facebook and Instagram pages come alive with captivating imagery and engaging content, drawing in followers and fostering a sense of community. Their responsive, interactive social media presence ensures they’re always within easy reach for any holiday amendments or queries.
The ‘Business Travel Company of the Year’ title went to Easy Avenues Limited, who – after the industry-wide slow start – kicked into high gear in March, continually accelerating thereafter. By onboarding business travel experts who had been hit by the pandemic and intensifying training in 2021, they laid solid foundations for 2022.
With the new year, they bravely launched five new IT platforms, working tirelessly round the clock to adapt to the revolutionary processes. Embracing an array of new systems, from Client Profile and GDS to Mid Office and Client Reporting, they demonstrated an admirable ability to rise to any challenge. Thanks to their outstanding team effort, they surpassed their ambitious turnover target, attracted valuable new clients, expanded into larger offices, and celebrated their achievements with a fabulous Motown Party in London.
Wanderlux earned the title of ‘Independent Travel Retailer of the Year’. This trailblazing travel design service was established in 2018 by CEO Rebecca, following her 13-year stint in the travel sector. Overcoming personal hurdles, Rebecca and Wanderlux have grown exponentially, specialising in crafting bespoke experiences for ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs).
Wanderlux is renowned for its out-of-this-world expeditions; clients can find themselves socialising with astronauts in unique partnerships formed during the pandemic in 2021. The maiden expedition, a private yacht journey to the Last Antarctica Total Solar Eclipse, featured Astronaut and Aquanaut Nicole Stott and wildlife photographer Roie Galitz.
Beyond creating luxurious, innovative travel experiences, Rebecca’s vision also focuses on the emotional resonance of travel and championing our planet. Bookings include a financial contribution to global projects, and Wanderlux is a proud founding member of The Conscious Travel Foundation.
Finally, Journey Hospitality was recognised for its ‘Innovation in Travel’. Journey Hospitality has reinvented itself from a digital marketing agency to a cutting-edge hospitality software provider, all thanks to its pioneering platform, onejourney®.
This platform, the first all-in-one ecommerce solution for hotels, empowers establishments to sell everything online, maximising each transaction’s value and boosting direct revenue.
Historically, independent and boutique hotels struggled to compete with digital-first online travel agents (OTAs) and big brands. Journey Hospitality saw this as an opportunity to enhance the direct booking experience and offer more to guests, a service OTAs can’t match.
onejourney® combines all elements of a hotel stay into a fully-bookable, scalable, and user-friendly online environment, mimicking a retail experience. From rooms, dining, and spa services to gift vouchers and events, everything becomes part of one seamless shopping experience. Partnering with Stripe has even enabled digital wallets, delayed payments, and partial pre–payments.
Hotels utilising onejourney® have reported boosted conversion rates, increased revenue, reduced inbound calls, improved cash flow, and reduced OTA dependency. Feedback from hotels has been overwhelmingly positive, echoing onejourney®’s role as a game-changing tool in the hospitality industry.
As for individual glory, Oliver Maxfield from Qsensor Ltd was bestowed with the ‘Travel Retailer Rising Star Award’, founding the company that developed an innovative tool specifically designed for time-conscious travellers. This platform aids travellers by offering real-time updates on airport security queue wait times at over 220 global airports, including major hubs such as Heathrow, Frankfurt, and Atlanta.
After months of meticulous research, ideation, and validation, Qsensor was officially established in October. By Christmas, a working prototype was available to a select group, and the minimum viable product (MVP) was launched by Valentine’s Day, gaining over 2K users within the first fortnight.
A Round of Applause for the Finalists
While the spotlight was on the winners, let’s not forget the incredible finalists who contributed to an outstanding year in the UK travel industry.
Companies like Journey Hospitality and Hot Source Creative were recognised as potential ‘Best Newcomer Travel Companies’. Meanwhile, The Jacksonheim Boutique and Tourasco Group Ltd caught the judges’ eyes in categories such as ‘Best Travel Company – City & Short Breaks’, ‘Best Travel Company – Family Holidays’, and ‘Best Travel Company – Touring Holidays’.
Other honourable mentions include HotelGyms.com and PlainSailing.com for ‘Best Travel Company – Summer Holidays’, Qsensor Ltd for ‘Best Travel Website’, and Tuned In Travel for ‘Best Use of Social Media – Travel’.
Overall, the UK Travel Awards 2023 was a remarkable testament to the strides made in the travel industry. It’s clear that the pioneering spirit of travel is alive and well in the UK. Here’s to the remarkable journeys ahead and the passionate people who make them possible!