House of Travel founder Chris Paulsen has been awarded a lifetime achievement award by the travel industry.

Paulsen was described as a ''trailblazer'' at the Travel Agents Association of New Zealand awards function last night which honoured excellence in the booming industry.

Paulsen, who has been in the industry for around 50 years, said he had enjoyed nearly every minute of it.

After working for Air New Zealand in ticketing and sales for nearly a decade straight out of school in Christchurch, Paulsen took the leap with his wife, Maureen, into the travel agent business in 1977.

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''The only asset we had was a car (a Renault 8) so Maureen and I sold that and started a wholesale travel business in Christchurch,'' he told the Herald last year.

Over the next 10 years they developed a business that dominated airline consolidation and wholesaling in the South Island.

But he could see beyond wholesaling and in 1986, sold it and started House of Travel.

The first House of Travel store opened in Timaru in January 1987 and last year had sales of $1.9 billion.

The Winners

• Best Agency Support: Air New Zealand

• Best Industry Representative: John Stewart - Air New Zealand

• Best Technology Supplier: Travelport

• Best Hotel Group: QT Hotels & resorts

• Best Car Rental Operator:Avis Rent a Car

• Best Tour Operator The Travel Corporation: Trafalgar, Contiki, Insight Vacations, AAT Kings, CostSaver, Luxury Gold, Inspiring Journeys

• Best River Cruise Operator: Avalon Waterways

• Best Cruise Operator: RCI Cruises NZ (Royal Caribbean Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruise)

• Best International Airline - Offline: Virgin Atlantic

• Best International Airline - Online: Air New Zealand

• Best Niche Wholesaler: World Journeys

• Best Wholesaler: Go Holidays

• Best Broker Fiona Atkinson: New Zealand Travel Brokers

• Best Broker Brand Jackie Bell: The Travel Brokers

• Best Broker Team: Janine Mallon: The Travel Brokers

• Best Travel Agency Manager: Corporate Lynn Retter - Corporate Travel Management

• Best Travel Agency Manager - Retail: Kim Dunwell - helloworld Palmerston North

• Best Young Travel Agency Executive - Corporate: New Mark Leadbetter - House of Travel

• Best Young Travel Agency Executive: Retail Danielle Scott- House of Travel

• Rookie of the Year - Corporate: Steven Krzanich - Orbit World of Travel Auckland

• Rookie of the Year - Retail : Anna O' Dell - House of Travel Ferrymead

• Best Brand Corporate - Multi Location: Orbit World of Travel

• Best Brand Corporate - Single Location: Orbit World of Travel Christchurch

• Best Brand Retail - Multi Location:helloworld Milford & Browns Bay

• Best Brand Retail - Single Location: YOU Travel Orewa

• Best Travel Agency Brand: helloworld

• Best Travel Consultant - Corporate: Michelle Furness - APX

• Best Travel Consultant - Retail: Tony Jackson - House of Travel New Market

• Air NZ Industry Achievement Award: Chris Paulsen