A Trip Down Memory Lane on the 20th Anniversary of Cashel Travel
James Aitken, founder and CEO of Cashel Travel, talks us through the first 20 years, as he remembers it…
“Cashel Travel is 20 years old today!! (19th February 2021). How do I know?
Well on the day I started Cashel Travel I noticed an article in the Times newspaper about a disease affecting cattle in England called foot and mouth. I recall being slightly concerned but thinking it shouldn't make any difference to travel. Sound familiar?
That was in Dublin, it was 2001, and it was a different world then. The internet was new and Cashel Travel had one of the earliest websites in the industry. The website had a counter to show how many visits it had had.I wrote all the content myself and added a couple of pages I thought may be of interest like "Stag Night in Dublin".
A couple of years later Cashel Travel was the biggest stag and hen operator in Ireland on the back of that webpage. It was ranked number one on a new search engine called Google. We had a staff of eight at that time.
We also handled all the bookings for a relatively new airline called Easyjet which had a state-of-the-art online system for hotel bookings until they reached our office.
Roll forward a few years and the Celtic Tiger made running a business in Ireland impossibly expensive (I remember my landlord asking for a twenty-one-year lease for our office).
At that point I had been joined by Marta (Kucharczyk) who kept the company functioning. We had an office in London and decided to open one in Scotland too.
Back home to Edinburgh and the crash happened. The stag and hens stopped travelling and so did everyone else.We were buying 4 star hotels in London for £22.00 dinner bed and breakfast and still no one was coming.
Luckily, we had some big contracts like the Gathering (which brought 20,000 ex-pat Scots back home for a couple of weeks) and we also did the accommodation every year for the Jazz Festival and the Science Festival in Edinburgh. We had our faithful and loyal clients who kept coming. During those years we struggled to make a profit and keep the company afloat. It was not a happy time.
Then in 2013 we managed to secure some very large tour operator contracts and things started to look up. We also secured some large pieces of business and gradually our financial position improved. That was when we opened up our incentive travel and conference department.
In 2018 we were the DMC for the M&I Forum.
In 2019 we were the DMC for the Global Incentive Summit.
At that point we had a team of 35 staff and 4 offices.
Over the last twenty years we have:
Contributed over £70 million to the economy.
Employed and trained 282 staff members.
Trained over 140 interns.
Supported numerous suppliers many of whom we have worked with since day one.
Had over 250,000 clients.
Organised over 10000 groups.
Run over 400 conferences and incentives.
Today post (we hope) pandemic we are gearing up to a busy season ahead.
We still have clients who have been with us for the last 20 years which I think says it all.
In a way the last year has had positive aspects (not very many admittedly but…), it has allowed Cashel Travel to re-focus on its core objectives which is to be a client focused and bring the very best service at a fair cost.
The company is a lot more streamlined and we are all looking forward eagerly to being back in business again in the next few months.”