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Luxury travel agents and brands honoured at Aspire Awards

Travel Weekly’s sister title Aspire has honoured the best agents and brands in the luxury travel sector.

The Aspire Awards was held at The Londoner in Leicester Square in partnership with headline sponsor Celebrity Cruises.

Tour operator Carrier was the only company to clinch two awards as it scooped Luxury Tour Operator of the Year and Luxury Team of the Year.

Swords Travel was recognised as Independent Agency of the Year (high street), while Tarporley Travel won Independent Agency of the Year (homeworking).

Other luxury agents to be honoured included Dan Salmon, owner of Never A Wasted Journey, who picked up the gong for Travel Advisor of the Year and Ben Poole, who won Rising Star of the Year after setting up his agency The Travel Journal in Harrogate in January 2020.

Ten Lifestyle Group was named as Concierge Agency of the Year, while London-based agency Travel Matters was applauded for Innovation of the Year, thanks to its partner promotion and B2B business tool.

John Sullivan, head of commercial at Advantage Travel Partnership, won Aspire Supporter of the Year.

Haslemere Travel’s Gemma Antrobus and Neil Jacobs, chief executive of Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, received top honours at the Aspire Awards, becoming the latest recipients of the Outstanding Contribution to Luxury accolade.

Aspire editor Hollie-Rae Brader described Antrobus (pictured, receiving her award) as “a key force in fighting for our industry during the pandemic”, adding: “When others felt the travel industry wasn’t being listened to, she stepped up and was a regular face across all major news outlets. Day or night, Gemma was banging the drum for a sector the government seemingly forgot about.”

Antrobus is the owner and managing director of Haslemere Travel and chair of Aito Agents. She grew up in a family ingrained in the travel industry and studied international hospitality management at university. She purchased Haslemere Travel in 2015 having been managing director since 2008.

She said: “It’s not often I’m lost for words but I want to say thank you on behalf of our entire industry. We’ve done this together, we’ve got here together. I’m not here on my own – there’s many of you who have been at the end of a Whatsapp message, email or phone call.

“[Thank you to] my husband, Ray, who is ever patient and has not only supported me but has supported our business as well. I want to say thank you to Aspire and Travel Weekly for really being there for us as agents, keeping us going, keeping us believing that we will have an industry to fight for and in fighting for it we are still here.

“We are an amazing industry, we deserve the success that we’re going to get as we come out the other side of this and all I say is thank you – it’s been my honour to represent you in this wonderful industry.”

Jacobs was also rewarded for his “passion for wellness, sustainability and making travel purposeful”, with Brader commending his work in ensuring Six Senses “has a positive impact on guests, staff and local communities”.

Jacobs joined Six Senses in 2012, having held leadership roles at Four Seasons, where he oversaw all of Asia Pacific and launched a host of new properties, and Starwood, where he led its luxury hotels and the development of the Baccarat Hotels and 1 Hotels brands.

He said: “Thank you to Aspire for bestowing the amazing award that you have on us. We’re extremely grateful, humbled and honoured to have won this award.”

Aspire editor Hollie-Rae Brader said: “I’m thrilled that we’re here tonight to honour all of you. Everyone in this room has played a part in ensuring our industry survives. You’ve all worked tirelessly, up against endless challenges and restrictions in a complex and ever evolving landscape. Tonight we celebrate you and your businesses.”

Aspire Awards 2021: Full list of winners

Outstanding Contribution to Luxury – Gemma Antrobus, Haslemere Travel

Outstanding Contribution to Luxury – Neil Jacobs, Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas

Independent Agency of the Year (high street) – Swords Travel

Independent Agency of the Year (homeworking) – Tarporley Travel

Concierge Agency of the Year – Ten Lifestyle Group

Travel Advisor of the Year – Dan Salmon, Never A Wasted Journey

Innovation of the Year (agency) – Travel Matters, partner promotion/b2b business tool

Rising Star of the Year – Ben Poole, The Travel Journal

Aspire Supporter of the Year – John Sullivan, Advantage Travel Partnership

Luxury Ocean Cruise Line of the Year – Celebrity Cruises

Luxury River Cruise Line of the Year – AmaWaterways

Luxury Adventure Brand of the Year – White Desert

Sustainable Practice of the Year – Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas

Luxury Tourist Board of the Year – Tourism New Zealand

Luxury Hotel Brand of the Year – Sani & Ikos Group

Luxury Air Service of the Year – VistaJet

Luxury Tour Operator of the Year – Carrier

Premium Tour Operator of the Year – Kuoni

Unsung Hero of the Year (supplier) – Katherine Evans, Knighton Reeve

Sales Representation Company of the Year – Perowne International

Innovation of the Year (supplier) – Trees4Travel, carbon calculator/Island Love project

Luxury Team of the Year – Carrier

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