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When Budget Travel and Thomas Cook shut down, the staff set up on their own

Former employees of Thomas Cook and Budget Travel have set up on their own as personalised travel advisors.

As a number of travel agencies crumbled under the pressure of the economic downturn, hundreds of industry workers were facing an uncertain future.

But now, former employees of travel operators have used their vast experience to establish their own consultancies and agencies under the branch of the Travel Counsellors.

The individuals operate from their homes, but have a network of colleagues around the country and are fully licensed and bonded with the Commission for Aviation Regulation under the Travel Counsellors name. There are now 45 Irish Travel Counsellors (TC), all part of the global company.


Raymond Lee was one of the employees who took part in the sit-in in the Thomas Cook office in Grafton Street during the summer when the British company suddenly announced that it would close all of its Irish offices.

"It's horrible to think that in this day and age, people can be left with nothing," said Mr Lee (41), from Drumcondra.

But he enquired, about starting as a TC and was up and running by October last year.

"It's a work in progress. Some of my old clients from Thomas Cook have tracked me down through the net," he said. "I've been really busy in the last few months. You are working for yourself. You have to think on your feet if something goes wrong," Mr Lee added. "But the beauty of being a TC is that there is a more personal service.

"You can call me at 8am or 3pm. The idea is it is your business, you are doing it for your clients and you want good recommendations."

And a number of former Budget Travel employees will join the team at the Travel Counsellors within the next few weeks.

Dairine McGarrity was let go from American Express Travel in May last year and she too decided to set up her own business.

"The company said that they would close their offices but I knew I wanted to stay in travel," she said. "It's different -- it's very challenging but extremely rewarding."

Ms McGarrity (29) became engaged on New Year's Eve and so becoming a Travel Counsellor happened at an important juncture in her life. "I'm in it for the long haul," she said. "I knew that this could be the best thing for me -- and it has been. I could never see a way back now. You worry at the start where the business is going to come from, but once you get out and about and meet people, it all starts falling into place. We are effectively travel agents with a bit of a twist.

"It's extremely flexible, we want to be available for our clients when they need us."