“Some people will think I’m crazy, but I think this is the opportunity I’ve been dreaming about.”

Those are the words of travel agent Ben Poole, who opens his first shop in the historic Montpellier Quarter of Harrogate this week.

Poole, who has been in travel for 21 years, started The Travel Journal on January 1 as a homeworker.

Three months into his new venture, lockdown came into effect and travel came to a standstill.

“In a way I feel very lucky about the timing because I didn’t have a massive wave of admin because of the virus,” he explained. “I had people booked for summer, but my numbers were manageable and they all rebooked for this year or next.”

During the lockdown, Poole took on an extra role as delivery driver because “he wanted to help his local community” and he’s spent the last four months delivering NHS prescriptions to those who were shielding or elderly.

In recent weeks, he’s also been busy taking luxury bookings with very short lead in time to destinations such as Greece.

But this week marks a big step in the evolution of his new brand, with this shop opening on September 1.

“A lot of people think I’m crazy going into retail at this time,” he admitted. “But I’ve always dreamt of having my own shop for my own brand but I only ever wanted to do it if a space in the Montpellier Quarter.

“That part of Harrogate is a conservation area and it’s full of independent shops. Units very rarely become available here but it’s where I always wanted to have a shop. When the opportunity came up, I couldn’t not go for it.

“The area has a real community spirit and everyone supports each other and recommends neighbouring businesses to their clients.”

Poole firmly believes that the pandemic and the chaos surrounding travel will encourage more people to use a travel agent in the future.

“Lockdown bought everyone together and created a sense of community. By setting up my shop I’m showing that I’m there to support people.

“Travel agents are so important and we have a huge opportunity here – the value of a travel agent has been proven over this strange period of time.

“This is my dream and I’m bursting with energy about it – positivity breeds positivity. It’s too easy in the current climate to be negative about everything.

“It’s going to be an interesting ride, but I’m excited!”