Travel business to start new adventure

More than 45 years on Broadway in Stratford will come to an end on March 31 for local travel identity John Campbell when he transfers his business to his home office in New Plymouth.

"During the past 45 years the travel industry has undergone some significant technological advances the introduction of the jet engine, the rise and fall of the Concorde, development of electronic ticketing and personal in-flight entertainment systems, just to name a few. This is just a sign of the times," he says.

As more of the premium suppliers have embraced new technology, John has seen the way travel is planned and booked change dramatically, with more people booking online.

John has been central to a lot of Stratford's business history over the past 45 years.

Fred Nolan offered him a job in April 1968 as a junior consultant for Newton King Travel, a department of Newton King Ltd. The business had just moved from the Fenton Street/Broadway corner to the building presently occupied by 100 per cent Dimocks, Moss Rocard & Smith Chemists and Pereras Books.

Newton King Travel had then recently purchased Stratford's first travel agency, Burgess Travel Bureau. John had worked with Wilf Burgess for his first three months.

He remembers arranging tickets for older Stratford identities including Dr Bill Gordon, Bruce Hutchen, Len Harrison, George Boon, Claude Sawyers and Ken Merhtens who regularly flew to Wellington on the then-national carrier, NAC, to attend meetings.

"At the time, the airfare to Auckland was $7.80 and the bus fare on Gibsons White Star Line was $3.40."

After further travel positions within the company in Hawera and New Plymouth, John became the manager in Stratford in April 1973. Then in July 1977, he resigned and opened his own agency with his wife, Maxeen, on August 1, 1977. Their agency was the last office in New Zealand to be licensed and accredited for NAC.

They have operated their business from the same location for the past 35 years. John says he would likely sell or lease the premises.

Servicing the wider community of Central Taranaki has meant John has looked after the travel requirements for four generations of several families, which he says has been "most rewarding and gratifying". Over the past 25 years he has specialised in escorted tours to all corners of the world, a far cry from his first trip to Pipiriki up the Wanganui River in 1970.

John is upbeat about the future, saying though modern technology has and is changing the face of the business it also provides opportunities, such as operating from home. "I want to take it a bit easier. But I am not ready yet to retire. For my customers, it would be business as usual."

He adds that recent research has shown customers are frustrated with the amount of time spent online researching travel options.

"This, coupled with requests to reveal credit card and personal information, has meant that the trend is moving back towards customers relying on trusted travel agents and their wealth of knowledge to provide this service."

John has joined one of the largest travel brokering firms in New Zealand, the Travel Brokers, and will become an independent consulting travel broker on April 1.

"I will still be servicing central Taranaki, so if required can travel to a client's home."

- Stratford Press

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