Ask Tina where she works, and she’ll tell you “in Billy Elliot’s village”.
Part of the film was shot in the streets behind Seaside Travel, located in the heart of what was once a thriving coal mining town in County Durham. It’s the perfect backdrop for a film about a boy from a mining family who becomes a professional ballet dancer.
“When you say Billy Elliot, it makes it easier for people to visualise what it’s like. Some parts of Easington Colliery have been renovated but a lot of it is still as it was and run down. A lot of the shops down our street have closed so there are just a handful left,” admits Tina, who has been manager for the past five years.
Fortunately, the agency’s business is thriving, with customers often coming from farther afield thanks to recommendations from a loyal customer base.
“I’ve been working from 7am to 7pm recently,” adds Tina, whose agency is part of Hays Travel’s Independence Group.
The travel industry has always been part of Tina’s career but she made the switch to work as a travel agent only 12 years ago. She started her career at the age of 16 in Hays Travel’s head office in Sunderland, where she worked in the administration department, processing everything from bookings to tour operator payments.
“When one of my old bosses at Hays Travel decided to open an agency with a business partner, I thought it might make a change to work somewhere else,” she recalls. “But I had never sold a holiday or sat face to face with the public; it was a case of getting over those first nerves.”
Now the job is second-nature, but it was only after a brief stint back in administration that she realised just how much she loved it.
“I moved to Newcastle so I left Seaside Travel. But when Seaside Travel were short-staffed and I was on a week’s holiday I said I’d help out. I sat back at my desk and cried because I wanted to come back!”
Tina returned to the agency, taking over as manager after the departure of Karen Walton who, alongside business partner and Seaside Travel director Nicola Park, had first recruited her.
“I just love it,” adds Tina, who says staff are always kept on their toes.
“We sell everything and anything. Our best one this year was a retired gentleman who wanted to go snake hunting in India!”
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