Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) has named Carla Hesketh, proprietor of Marken Travel in Wigan, as the tourist board’s Travel Agent of the Year.

The award scheme was launched on National Travel Agent Day UK (July 24) and MTA urged agents to recommend worthy candidates for the title.

As well as the accolade Travel Agent of the Year 2020, Hesketh has won a three-night city break for two at the Casa Rocca Piccola in Malta’s capital, Valletta.

Her nominator Mandi Grundy has claimed a place on the Malta Academy 2021 fam trip, from April 1-4, 2021.

Established 37 years ago, Marken Travel has an experienced team of four and has always sold holidays to Malta as a year-round destination.

Hesketh said: “I have visited Malta twice and the last time I visited was over 17 years ago, so I am very excited to return.

“I have always loved the diversity of the island and now I have the opportunity to revisit them, so a big thank you to the Malta Tourist Authority for the amazing opportunity to visit Valletta and to Mandi for nominating me.”

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Natalie Swinburne, MTA trade marketing manager for the UK and Ireland, said: “Carla has dedicated 30 years to Marken Travel and her drive has enabled her to become the proprietor of the independent travel agent.

“The local business has built a strong community of loyal customers over the years and the focus is and has always been customer service.

“Carla had to make the difficult decision to furlough her entire team during the height of the pandemic and went above and beyond to reorganise customers travel plans alone.

“She has been an inspiration to her team for 30 years and continues to be during such a challenging time.”

Tolene van der Merwe, MTA’s UK and Ireland director, added: “We launched Travel Agent of the Year on the first National Travel Agent Day as we felt now more than ever travel agents deserved recognition for their commitment to travel and tourism.

“We wanted to give the power to the travel agents in nominating their colleagues to win the award as they are at the forefront of our industry and can see the incredible efforts their peers go to each and every day.”