Tributes have been paid to the “queen” of tour operator French Life Julia Slater, who has died after a long battle with cancer.

Julia, who worked for Cendant, which bought French Life parent International Life Leisure Group, for 12 years from 1994 to 2006, is remembered by ex-colleagues and friends in the travel industry for her infectious laugh, northern humour and fun-loving personality.

In a travel career spanning over 40 years, Julia worked for a range of companies including Condor Ferries, Airtours and travel agencies Imperial Travel and Pickfords Travel.

Most recently, from 2010 to 2012, Julia worked as senior sales manager for Rail Europe, now Voyages-sncf.com, and prior to that she was at Wandrian from 2007 to 2009.

Kirsty Laifa, head of UK sales at Aferry.co.uk, who worked with Julia at French Life, said: “Julia was a one-off, a legend, a wonderful human being. She was one of the industry’s ‘good’ people: funny, scatty, kind, yet top of her game. She was the original female boss, a fabulous motivator, great fun and devoted to her family.”

David Stamp, former camping director at Cendant Vacation Rental Group, which included French Life, added: “Julia was a true lady who loved glam clothes and fab cars. She had a unique style and strong character. Equally she also had a warm heart and was very generous with all her colleagues. She was instrumental in propelling French Life to be the premier brand for France through her dedicated France training programme undertaken by virtually the whole retail trade. We are very saddened to see the passing of such a terrific lady.”

Jan Ashton, former contracts manager at French Life who now works for Jet2holidays, said: “It was a joy to work with Julia. She was a motivational, fun loving colleague and always innovative in her off the wall schemes and ideas for fun events and promotions to involve our travel agent partners and promote French Life at the numerous Abta and Abtof conferences which we attended. Her zest and enthusiasm were contagious and her popularity with the travel agents made a huge contribution in the success of the company.”

Wyndham Vacation Rentals (UK) sales director Sally Henry recalled: “Julia was the person who introduced me to the world of travel agents. She absolutely loved the industry and her ‘work hard, play hard’ mantra still stays with me today. We will miss her.”

Iris Matthews, director, Matthews Holidays, also paid tribute. “Julia put an enthusiastic sparkle into everything she did – a lovely person who was a joy to be with. Her marketing skills were inspirational and her humour infectious. She will be sadly missed by many.”

Magellan PR account director Gillian Green said: “Julia was not only a true professional but a fun-loving, generous and warm human being. It was a privilege to work with her and for her.”

Others in the industry paid tribute to Julia on her Facebook page, recalling the fun they used to have with her at industry conferences.

Jane Dyson, who previously worked for travel marketing organisation The Network, wrote on her page: “We had many laughs and good times together and the travel industry has lost one of its northern quirky characters.”

Helen Dooley, partner of travel agency More Than Travel, said: “What fun we’ve had. I know you’ll be taking that crazy laugh with you on your way. Enjoy what comes next.”

Paul Lacey, head of trade sales at Voyages-sncf.com, said of Julia: “A lovely person who only looked for the good in people and in life. God bless her.”

Paul Riches, sales director, Bedswithease, also wrote: “Looking at the tributes from others brings back happy memories of conferences and good times together – I will always remember that smile and infectious laugh.”

Julia’s funeral is this Friday at St John’s Church in Golcar, Huddersfield, at 1.30pm.