Athlone's Grenham Travel marks 110 years in business
As it celebrates its 110th anniversary in the travel business, which makes it one of the longest-established travel agencies in Ireland, Athlone-based Grenham Travel has faced its biggest hurdle ever over the past year with the global coronavirus pandemic bringing the worldwide travel trade to a virtual standstill.
While she admits that it has been "a tough year", owner Marie Grenham is philosophical about the future and is confident the travel trade will bounce back by the end of the year, or early in 2022.
Despite the fact that the Government has announced the resumption of foreign travel from July 19, Marie says things are "still very uncertain" at the moment and there are many challenges ahead, but she feels there will be "a renewed appetite for travel" once the pandemic comes to an end.
"The most important thing everyone can do is continue to follow the public health guidelines and ensure that we all stay well and stay safe," she says, adding that the roll-out of the vaccine will have "a very important role to play in ensuring a safe road ahead."
Grenham Travel was started by Marie Grenham's grandfather in 1911 when he applied for a licence to operate as a shipping agent, and she is the third generation of the same family to operate the business, having taken over in 1999 when her beloved father, Tommy, passed away.
"My grandfather had passengers on the Titanic, which was a terrible tragedy at the time, but I don’t think even he could ever have envisaged an event like Covid closing down travel across the world," she says.
Marie is loud in her praise of the dedicated team of staff in Grenham Travel who have been operating under the most difficult of circumstances over the past year.
"At the start of the pandemic we were extremely busy repatriating the huge number of customers we had all over the world, and making alternative arrangements, and everyone just put their shoulder to the wheel and the teamwork from every member of staff was just brilliant."
The business has continued to operate behind closed doors since the pandemic began, and a lot of their work has involved rescheduling holidays for customers and ensuring the refunds were processed for those whose planned trips could not go ahead.
As a fully licenced and bonded member of the Commission for Aviation Rgulation, Marie Grenham is quick to point out that all customers of her travel agency are "fully protected" and the expertise and advice which staff have been able to impart to clients in the midst of the uncertainty of the global pandemic has been invaluable.
The business is also a member of both the Irish Travel Agents Association and World Choice, and Marie Grenham is "very thankful" for the way in which both organisations have kept them up to date with the many changes in both the domestic and global travel trade over the past year.
"We get tremendous help within the trade, and it has never been more important than over the past year," she says.
Over her many years in the travel industry, Marie Grenham says the biggest change she has probably seen is that people have become "much more adventurous" in their travel habits.
"Long-haul travel is huge, and nowhere seems to be too far for people," she says, adding that Asia, Australia and other far-flung destinations are very popular, particularly with young people.
She feels that Covid will change travel habits, but she is also confident that many people will appreciate the certainty and the assurance they can get from booking with a licenced and bonded travel agency in the future, rather than adopting a "go it alone" policy.
"We are looking forward to the future with confidence," she says, "and hopefully there are better and brighter days ahead for all of us."