Profile: Steve Murphy, Great Britain’s most westerly travel agent

St Ives Travel Agency is based on the north Cornish coast with a view over Porthminster beach, which becomes packed with tourists in the summer.

While the view may offer a certain amount of inspiration to agency owner Steve Murphy and his two members of staff, it can also prove to be equally galling.

“While it is a fantastic view, the biggest problem is being stuck indoors from 9am to 5.30pm while everyone else is on the beach,” he said.

However, he added that living and working in a small, relaxed town has its benefits. “The best thing is the quality of life; you’re not stuck in a traffic jam for an hour trying to get home,” he said.

Murphy started working in the agency a year after it was set up in 1972, before buying the business in 1996.

While the bulk of his market is the older generation, he admitted to serving a steady stream of younger clients who still consult their local agent when looking for surf and adventure overseas.

“We find the younger people always give us a call; whether or not we convert their enquiries is something else,” Murphy said.

“St Ives is a reasonably small community, their parents have probably dealt with us over the years, so they will always give us a shot no matter what itinerary they’re planning.

“We also act as a point of contact for when things go wrong. Recently we had a young lad bodyboarding in Bali who was badly wiped out when someone fell on him,” Murphy added.

“On his journey home, he could carry most of his stuff, but he couldn’t carry his board. We phoned the consolidator and arranged some help for him,” he said.

While Murphy, who is a member of Advantage Travel Centres, was unsure how many passengers he deals with annually, he has strong links with the 20,000-strong community in St Ives, and enjoys a client base spread across much of north Cornwall.

He even takes bookings from customers in Scotland. “They are probably people who have moved away from the area or have got friends who booked through us and got a good service,” he said.

Like many agents, he is keen to increase his adventure and niche businesses, but surprisingly does not consider the traditional summer holiday market his biggest base.

Murphy said: “Our traditional holiday sales start from August. Local businesses’ peak earning period is during the summer, so while we deal with a lot of local enquiries and rail travel, one of our main markets is winter holidays, with Australia, New Zealand and South Africa all being popular.”

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