Lisa McAuley, managing director of Gold Medal, is to leave the tour operator in July to assume a new executive position with Silver Travel Advisor.
McAuley, who joined Gold Medal in 2018, has acquired a majority share in the publisher, deals and advice site which has a 123,000-strong community for the over-50s – which she is already a non-executive director of.
She will remain as managing director of Gold Medal until July 2021, with the delivery of the new Gold Medal website her priority. Recruitment for a successor is underway.
Debbie Marshall, founder of Silver Travel Advisor, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this month, is retaining a minority shareholding and will move to an advisory role later this year.
In her time at trade-only tour operator Gold Medal, McAuley has built a new management team, restructured the operator’s sales function, consolidated the trading team and “delivered broad efficiencies”.
Gold Medal said McAuley has helped developed close relationships with industry associations such as Clia and Atas, “shifted the focus of its channel marketing mix to its owned channels” and “grown the largest B2B agent database in the UK trade”.
The operator said McAuley’s leadership has “enabled the brand to emerge in a stronger position from the collapse of Thomas Cook, and navigate the ongoing challenges of the current pandemic”.
Dnata Travel Group, Europe, chief executive John Bevan said: “Sad as we are to see Lisa depart, we wish her the very best with her new direction.
“She’s been a great leader in our organisation, and we’re proud to see her take this step in to entrepreneurship as one of a new generation of women setting the pace in our industry.
“We’ll all miss her sharp commercial insight, warmth, drive and perseverance – all qualities that have been invaluable as she steered our B2B division through a period of unprecedented challenge and change.
“She leaves behind a very strong management team who are well prepared to deliver a robust three-year plan, and whom I know will ensure Gold Medal maintains its market leading status and unrivalled commitment to the travel trade.”
McAuley said: “When I joined Gold Medal and Travel 2 back in January 2018 no-one could have predicted what the next three years would hold and whilst the last year has been full of challenges I’m immensely proud of what the team has achieved.
“It’s been an incredible opportunity to lead Gold Medal and the sister brands as market leaders and ensure that the business stays at the top of its game no matter what the external environment throws at us.
“Building a first class highly engaged team and leading the business through a period of consolidation means that Gold Medal is brilliantly positioned to capitalise on future opportunities.
“People are what makes Gold Medal special and I’m genuinely sad to be leaving the team but also excited to see them build back from here on in and execute our three-year plan.
“I genuinely never envisaged my leaving Gold Medal and acquiring a travel business myself, however Covid-19 has thrown up previously unthinkable opportunities and investing in Silver Travel Advisor was one such opportunity which was too good to miss.”
Silver Travel Advisor
Silver Travel Advisor founder Debbie Marshall said: “It has been a great adventure to set up Silver Travel Advisor, and develop the business over the last 10 years, working with a wide range of trusted travel partners.
“The time is now right for new investment and a new face at the helm later in the year, and I’m delighted that Lisa will be stepping into this role. She is well-known and respected across the industry, and knows the business well, having been an invaluable non-executive director for the last three years.
“I have every confidence in Lisa’s ability to grow the business steering it to further success, whilst retaining its core values as a trusted voice for mature travellers.
“On a personal level, I am very conscious that I now need to practise the Silver Travel mantra, and allow myself time to pursue other interests, whilst still in my prime.”
McAuley added: “I have admired what Debbie and the team have achieved over the years and whilst certainly not in the market to move from my current role, when the opportunity presented itself to invest in Silver Travel Advisor it was impossible to turn down.
“The over 50s market is time affluent and of the upmost importance to the travel industry. Feedback from the 123,000 strong Silver Travel community is that whilst some members understandably have concerns over the pandemic and current crisis, the majority are eager to get away again and the fundamental appetite for travel hasn’t changed.
“I’m looking forward to steering the business and adding value to both members and partners along with Penny Worthy who joined as business development director last month. We will embark upon ambitious growth plans for the business ultimately aiding the recovery and return of the sector which we’ll share in the coming months.”