Every year Travel Counsellors UK have their conference around the beginning November and even though it is their national conference they open it up to the everyone in the seven countries we represent.
This year’s conference was hosted in the fantastic city of Glasgow, so we ran a competition to take 6 of our local Travel Counsellors to experience the community of Travel Counsellors.
We left on Monday 5 November with Virgin Atlantic from O.R. Tambo International. When scanning our tickets, we were informed that we had all been upgraded to Premium economy. What a great way to travel. More space, more pitch on the seats and a more personalized service offering. We all felt very spoilt and arrived at London Heathrow feeling very refreshed.
We then took the Virgin Rail train from London Euston to Manchester, checked-in at our hotel right next to our global headquarters, freshened up and took a tour of our office in the amazing Venus building in Manchester. This was a great experience as it gave us all an opportunity to see how all the different departments work and how they all work together. We were also welcomed by our group CEO Steve Byrne who took some time out to talk to everyone in our group, even though they were still doing their final conference preparations.
The next morning, we jumped onto the Pennine express which is a three-and-a-half-hour journey to Glasgow. It was well worth it as the countryside is beautiful, especially in autumn. It also gave us a great opportunity to chat to each other and to have some good laughs.
We arrived in Glasgow to find a beautiful city though rainy and cold, but that would never deter us South Africans from anything. We checked into the Glasgow Marriott and within minutes headed out to do some shopping at Primark and the Pound store which is a staple favorite for us.
The next morning, we headed off to the national pipping Centre to learn how to play the bag pipes. Boy was that fun and we all managed to hit a few notes and to not sound like we had just stepped on a cat.
We then walked around town for a bit taking in the beautiful architecture and meeting some great locals. We even got interviewed for a university project. We then met our Tour Guide George from Rabbies Tours who then escorted us to Loch Lomond and on the way, he shared so much information about Glasgow and Scotland. We had the good fortune of also sampling some of Scotland's best at the Glengoyne whiskey distillery after which we then headed back to the hotel to get a good night’s rest and to get prepared for a weekend of conference.
On Friday midday the conference kicked off with elective sessions that were very well attended and presented. The sessions ranged from Accessible travel through building your own brand and even included a session on mindfulness. The evening dinner was hosted by Ben Sheppard and the entertainment was amazing as always with Craig David showing off some wonderful beats followed by a silent disco.
The next day was filled with amazing guest speakers such as Nisha Katona, Dr Paul Redmond and Jim Lawless as well as an amazing supplier expo which gave us all an opportunity to meet with suppliers that we don’t get to see back home. In the evening was the gala dinner with an awards ceremony. The theme was thistle and tweed and it was great seeing everyone making such an effort. There were loads of gents in kilts and for those not so daring, tartan pants. The Red Hot Chilli Pipers kicked off the evening’s festivities and after the awards were presented, Marti Pellow set the mood for the rest of the evening.
On Sunday morning Sir Chris Hoy started the morning and he held everyone’s attention as delegates where literally hanging off his every word. A truly inspirational speaker and the Travel Counsellors left feeling really inspired to go out and achieve their success through his tried and trusted recipe.
At midday the conference was over with a few more incredible travel prizes handed out. We all said our farewells to new and old friends from across the globe and we made our way back to our hotel for our final night in Glasgow.
The next day Virgin Atlantic surprised us with access to club house and what a treat that was. The staff were so friendly and the space welcoming for either relaxing, getting some emails out or tasting some of the finest food and wines available.
As we boarded our flight, the thought on my mind was that I feel so privileged to be part of such a special family. One where people truly care about you and wherever we meet it is as if we have always known each other.