The Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) has crowned the winner of its first Mastermind competition.

Journeys a la Carte sales consultant Claire Hunt beat three other finalists to take the title at the AITO Specialist Travel Agents (STA) conference held last weekend in Warwick.

Hunt said having 10 years’ experience as a travel agent helped her answer questions from the general knowledge round, while she had studied hard on her specialist subject – AITO tour operator Safari Consultants.

She said: “It was a bit of a shock getting to the finals and I didn’t expect to win as it was very close. Once you get under the spotlight your mind can just go blank.”

AITO STA chairman Barry Moxley said the competition, which attracted about 150 agents, proved just how knowledgeable travel agents are and was so successful it is being repeated this year, albeit with a slightly different format.

He said the association would copy the University Challenge formula, allowing teams of agents from different agencies to enter.

“Agents pick up their knowledge over years of working in the trade and this was a great way to demonstrate it. Allowing teams to enter next year will take away the pressure for agents of being by themselves,” he said.