COVID-19 has derailed the entire travel and tourism industry. As many companies face unprecedented challenges, the Welsh-based rail holiday provider Ffestiniog Travel has gratefully accepted the helping hand of a former employee, helping to put them on track for recovery when it is safe to travel.
When Liz Turner (68) bade her retirement farewell to her Ffestiniog Travel colleagues last year, she did not expect to be back with her former employer within 12 months.
This time she is volunteering to help the holiday company deal with the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on the tourism industry. But “there’s no place I’d rather be right now,” says the longest-serving Ffestiniog Travel employee on record.
Having joined Ffestiniog Travel in 1973, as the right-hand woman to founding director Alan Heywood, Liz has seen the company weather many a storm. The rail tour operator is grateful to have her extensive expertise available once again to help it through the biggest challenge of its 47-year history.
The Porthmadog-based operator, a niche provider of global rail holidays, is, like most travel companies, facing its toughest fight for survival. Determined to help the company make it to the ‘other side’, Liz said: “I couldn’t think of a better way to spend retirement than supporting this small, independent, pioneering company that led the way in rail holiday travel in the UK, if not the world.”
Liz went on to say “Ffestiniog Travel has remained dedicated and true to its specialism – exploring and escorting travellers around the world by train. It has enabled thousands of people to see beautiful landscapes, discover fascinating cultures and travel with other like-minded holiday-makers. Right now, we are reminded just how precious travel is.”
Liz believes that when we can holiday safely again, we will all be more respectful of the places we visit and the cultures we are privileged to experience.
For now, Liz, who is working on a voluntary basis, is busy helping the company look ahead by working on its 2021 holiday brochure and planning more wonderful rail journeys for train travel tourists when it is safe to travel again. “Ffestiniog Travel brings together people who love a small group travel experience. Its tour leaders become firm friends with many customers” says Liz, who has led almost 100 tours over 45 years.
Liz has carried out every role within the company over the decades, from secretarial, administrative, product development, customer services to leading tours. “The first tour I led was alongside Alan in 1974, which was to Switzerland. I remember it very well, just like yesterday”.
It was, therefore, a poignant moment when her last tour leading duties in February 2019 took her back to where it all began!
“It felt like the perfect end.” Liz said; “My last tour to Switzerland took almost the same route as that very first one many, many moons back. I guess you could say it was a fitting ‘final curtain’ to my days on the road…or should I say rail”.
Of her return, founding director Alan Hewood said “We are extremely grateful to Liz for coming back on board. Her expertise in all areas of the business will help us manage the crisis and plan our recovery so that when tours can operate again, we are ready”.
Does Liz have any final thoughts on her interrupted retirement? “It was looking a very pleasant prospect,” she said, “days spent pottering in the garden, reading and knitting was the plan, but I cannot think of anything more important and worthwhile than volunteering to help a company fast approaching 50 years make it through this”.
For more information on Ffestiniog Travel, visit their website www.ffestiniogtravel.com.