Party like only travel agents can but if you are going to misbehave, watch out, Irene’s about! Says Colin Burns, branch manager at Hays Travel in Washington, Tyne and Wear

“And the winner of the best-dressed female 2016 is . . . cue fanfare . . . Colin from Washington branch!”

Let me explain.

The theme for the fancy dress night at Hays Travel’s conference was gangsters and molls and I had just been judged the best flapper. I was so convincing that when I messaged my wife with a photo of me proudly holding my winner’s certificate, she replied asking why I was sending her pictures of random ladies.

Anyway, conference season 2019 is in full swing, which means supplies of ProPlus, paracetamol and Alka-Seltzer are fast disappearing from pharmacy shelves. Hotels throughout Europe and beyond are stocking up their bars, and supplier sales and account managers are kissing their families (and probably their livers) farewell until Christmas.

Hello, ‘Cook’ colleagues

Hays Travel’s retail managers’ conference in Belek, Turkey, this year will be the biggest in the company’s 39-year history, with more than 700 retail branch managers, assistant managers and head office colleagues due to attend. It will be a great opportunity for our new colleagues who used to work for Thomas Cook and us Hays oldies to meet up, get to know each other and have a great time together. Fancy dress costumes are being ordered for the theme of West End Musicals (I’ve chosen to go as Buddy the Elf, so I get to wear tights again this year – an opportunity I never like to pass up), tuxedos are being dry cleaned and hundreds of fancy frocks have been purchased ready to celebrate the achievements of the year, learn about what’s new in the business and make our plans for the year to come and beyond.

Although my team take some convincing of the fact, the retail managers’ conference is not just a big old jolly away from the shop. The idea is, to coin a phrase, “work hard, play hard”. Stay out late and enjoy yourself, but be in the room (in both body and mind) at 9am next morning, ready to go. Eat and drink yourself silly but don’t miss out on the fantastic opportunity to network with suppliers and find out what exciting new products they have to offer you and your customers.

Surprise, surprise

This year, our conference will have workshops packed with information, and presentations from suppliers and senior managers from across the Hays Travel business. Retail and training director Jane Schumm has even promised us “some surprises” (don’t let us down, Jane!) to help make sure 2020 is a great success.

One other highlight, and a personal favourite of mine, is always Irene Hays’ closing presentation, which without fail is a humorous summary of the events (and sometimes individuals’ actions) from the five days (and four nights). So if you are going to misbehave, watch out, Irene’s about.

So, people of Belek, we’re on our way. Look out for a sea of orange and blue flooding your beautiful town and enjoy our company as much as I’m sure we will enjoy yours.

And remember, no matter what conference you may be attending, conference season is a time to reflect on the past, learn about new ideas and party like only travel agents can.


The last time I was in Belek…

Ironically, the last time I attended a conference in Belek was with Thomas Cook, shortly after its takeover of The Co-operative Travel, who I was working for at the time. It was eventful, to say the least!

The infamous Michael Tait accidentally tipping over a table holding hundreds of pounds’ worth of drinks one night because he was trying on someone else’s shoes is a memory that will stay with me. Then there was torrential rain and the broken bones after falls on wet marble floors. And I’m sure someone drove a golf buggy through the plate glass window at the main entrance – anyone care to snitch? I’m sure this Hays conference will be just as memorable, but hopefully with less controversial incidents.