Two of Travellers Choice’s leading independent agencies – Chris Watson Travel and Weston Cruise & Travel – have announced the merger of their respective retail operations.
Chris Watson – who with his wife Gemma established Chris Watson Travel in the New South Wales city of Tamworth in 2005 – says the decision to join forces with Canberra-based Weston Cruise & Travel followed a strategic review.
"During the pandemic we took the opportunity to restructure, regroup and refocus," says Watson. "As a result, we emerged as a more flexible business, focused on strategic growth that can deliver clear and sustainable benefits to our customers and staff.
"At the same time, Weston Cruise & Travel owner Deborah Long, with whom I have forged a close bond since joining Travellers Choice in 2018, expressed a desire to transition towards retirement. We realised it was a perfect opportunity to merge our respective operations."
Long acquired Weston Cruise & Travel more than decade ago, and under her leadership the agency has won numerous accolades, including being named Scenic’s number one selling travel agent on multiple occasions. Since joining Travellers Choice in 2014, the agency has also consistently ranked among the national network's top 10 members.
"Deb has acted as a mentor to me, providing guidance and strategic advice since I became a Travellers Choice member,” says Watson. “I’m delighted that, as a result of our merger, I can continue to learn from her as we work together to grow the combined business."
Long says the merger creates a clear succession plan for Weston Cruise & Travel.
“Succession planning is an important part of any business and does not always have to be within the business. The fact that we are able to stay within the Travellers Choice brand is what was important to me”, she says.
“By combining Chris’s youthful energy and resources with my knowledge and experience we will ensure two powerhouse agencies continue to thrive.”
Travellers Choice General Manager – Sales Nicola Strudwick says Travellers Choice is pleased to have played a role in the process through the provision of flexible support services that suit each members’ different needs.
“We operate an internal register for those members looking to purchase or sell, and that process helped facilitate conversations between Chris and Deb,” says Strudwick.
“Using our resources and expertise, we provide a neutral sounding board for independent owner operators considering how to evolve their businesses. They can speak to us in confidence knowing we will always strive to help them achieve the best outcome for their business, while bolstering the strength of the Travellers Choice network.”
Watson says he remains open to further growth opportunities.
"I wouldn't rule out further expansion, especially if those opportunities arise within the Travellers Choice network,” he says.
“There is a genuine sense of belonging with this group – we look out for each other and enjoy seeing our fellow members' businesses grow. I think that's a unique thing.”