AAAs Q&A: Simon Applebaum, Gold Medal managing director

Simon Applebaum looks forward to celebrating the ‘great and the good’ of the travel trade at the Agent Achievement Awards 2023 on July 13. Andrew McQuarrie reports

Q. Why have you decided to sponsor this year’s AAAs?
A. The AAAs are certainly a highlight of the travel industry calendar. As a 100% trade-only brand, this prestigious event is very important as it allows us to celebrate and give back to the wonderful agents who work hard throughout the year.

Q. How has 2023 gone so far?
A. It was great to see peaks return with a bang this year and we saw record-breaking trading days throughout January and February across our four brands. This included Pure Luxury’s biggest-ever booking of more than £250k, and a 200% increase in touring bookings for our relaunched Incredible Journeys brand. Sharing expertise and offering the invaluable first-hand experience gained on fam trips is key to our strategy and that’s why we’ve awarded more than 200 spaces across 33 trips travelled so far this year, with more to come. It’s been great to connect with so many agent partners to build not only knowledge, but relationships across our teams.

Q. What are your current priorities?
A. We recently refreshed the Gold Medal brand and refined our product portfolio to further develop our three specialist brands – Pure Luxury, Cruise Plus and Incredible Journeys – to provide dedicated expertise across all areas of travel. The development of all four brands and their portfolios will be a continued focus across all touchpoints including our product range, best-in-class service and marketing campaigns and collateral to ensure our agent partners have all the tools they need to sell and succeed.

Q. What are you doing to support your travel agent partners?
A. Supporting travel agents is at the core of everything we do. Over the last 12 months we have developed and improved website functionality based on direct feedback from our agent partners. We have also recruited an additional trade partnerships manager to support homeworkers; this allows us to engage, connect and build relationships with individual homeworkers and business owners even more closely. Our incentive programme, which includes Farebank Rewards across all brands, is industry-leading and has included enhanced awards for our specialist brands and double rewards for Gold Medal bookings across key travel periods. In addition to fam trip places, we’ve also awarded holidays, experience vouchers and goodie bags.

Q. What are your best memories of the AAAs?
A. There have been so many great memories over the years, but the highlight for me was when Phil Nuttall [Travel Village Group] won the Outstanding Contribution award in 2022. It was a wonderful moment and one that will live long in my memory.

Q. What would your advice be for someone attending for the first time?
A. This is the perfect opportunity to celebrate all that is great and good about our industry and to network with peers, suppliers and operator partners. The awards are a true celebration – prepare yourself for a late night on the dancefloor.

Q. What song will you be hoping to hear at the after-party?
A. It’s a summer event so anything that reminds me of big summer nights out at least a decade ago. Calvin Harris’s Bounce is always a floor-filler.



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