Maura Fahy, Managing Director, Fahy Travel, Galway, talks to ITTN’s News & Features Editor Neil Steedman about the agency, its acquisition of Corrib Travel, and the need for more co-operation between agencies and airlines. Fahy Travel currently has eight staff and was the Connaught finalist for the 2014 ITTN Travel Agency of the Year Award.
“Fahy Travel may be the second longest established travel agency in Ireland, after Barters in Cork, having been started by Kate A Fahy as a shipping company in the late 1800s when helping people to emigrate (one record says 1864 but it may have been a little earlier) and then the agency was taken over by her daughter, Kay F Fahy. I am her grand niece and my niece, Nicola, is currently working with us for the summer – so we are now in the fourth generation!
“I have always been associated with the business as I used to write up the books after school and then work here during the summer when I was in college. Michael Staunton, who had headed up the agency since the 1960s when my aunt had a stroke, retired some 20 years ago and then John O’Dowd nine years ago, when I took over.
“We are now in No. 2 Bridge Street, Galway, in the city centre, but the original premises was next door in No. 3 and at the peak we had 18 staff. We did open a branch in the shopping centre as well as a unit in the industrial estate for our corporate business, but when the crash came we chose to focus on leisure travel so Malahide Travel took over the corporate business and we moved everything back into No. 2 Bridge Street.
“Then last September when Eileen Tuite, whom I have known for many years, decided to retire, we took the opportunity to take over Corrib Travel in Cathedral Building, Lower Abbeygate Street, Galway, along with four staff, and upgraded the interior. The branch is now managed by Clodagh Connolly, while Caroline O’Toole is manager of Fahy Travel.
Technology and Service
“Fahy Travel has always kept up to date with every new development in this dynamic industry and we use the most advanced technology to ensure our customers get the best value and service. Corrib Travel has Travelport, while Fahy Travel has Amadeus, and both offices use the Dolphin Dynamics back-office system.
“However, the main value in our business is our staff (currently six full-time, including myself, and two part-time) along with their knowledge, training and service. Our sales consultants are highly experienced and widely travelled – and that has been reflected in their winning several awards for the company.
“Our bright shop window displays have won competitions as well, including those held by Disneyland Paris, the Santa Monica Tourist Board, and Insight Vacations.
“We have dedicated Weddings Abroad, Honeymoons, Long Haul and Cruising departments and run regular promotions – currently ‘Win a Caribbean Cruise for 2’ – and since January this year we have been developing a dedicated cruise shop upstairs.
“Service is key and clients now expect a higher level of service, but the basic job has not changed and we were an early implementer of service fees. Our city centre location and personal service mean that walk-in clients are still strong compared with phone-in clients – and our conversation to sales among walk-in clients has remained high over the past 15 years. Indeed, we do not respond to phone calls on Saturdays, when we are open from 10.00am to 2.00pm, because we are always very busy with walk-in clients.
“Much of our business nowadays is dynamically packaging and we shop around the various bedbanks, which can be time consuming, then select the cheapest price – as long as indemnity is in place.
“We are also updating our website, www.fahytravel.ie, which currently does not include online booking as I regard it as an online marketing brochure.
“Business has been steady for the past five years and I am ‘cautiously optimistic’, but one concern is that it can be difficult to find experienced staff in the West when they are needed.
“Due to events in North Africa and the Middle East safety is becoming a bigger issue for clients and this is putting pressure on good properties in Spain, Portugal and Italy etc. Also accommodation prices in North America are becoming high, although California remains a strong destination for honeymooners. Air Canada’s short breaks in Toronto combined with Havana are also proving popular.
“Overall, travel agents are still holding on to the long-haul business, but I feel that we are no longer seen as their customers by the airlines. There needs to be more co-operation with airlines – after all, we are servicing their ultimate customers!
Worldchoice and ITAA
“Fahy Travel became one of the original founding members of Worldchoice at a time when we were looking to differentiate ourselves from the competition, particularly the multiples. Membership is good in providing buying power and revenue through increased commission.
“We are also a member of the Irish Travel Agents Association, of course, and I served on the ITAA Board from 2012 to 2013. I also served on the Worldchoice committee, but now I am full-time in running my business!
In addition to being the 2014 ITTN Connaught Travel Agency of the Year, Fahy Travel was recently nominated by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) as a ‘New to Cruise Award’ finalist in the 2015 Agent Achievement Awards UK & Ireland.
Other awards include the 2012 and 2011 Best Honeymoon Travel Agent ‘I Do’ Awards as voted for by the West of Ireland, and also in 2011 a Special Merit Award by Keith Prowse Entertainment Travel, the Overall Supplier of the Year, and the Best Performing Worldchoice Member by Bedsonline, while Clodagh Connolly won the 2011 Best Overall Worldchoice Consultant award.