David Gambier, the founder and managing director of Witney travel agency Great Experience Travel, died on Wednesday after a short illness.
He founded the agency in 2007 and began trading in Witney in 2008.
His career began as a ski guide with Neilson in 1981, where he became reservations and administration manager for the group.
He also had senior roles with Sportsworld, dealing with travel to Olympic Games, football World Cups, Commonwealth Games and other UK and international sports championships.
In a tribute on the agency’s Facebook page, Great Experience Travel told clients: “Even when times as a business owner were tough, he always loved his work and relished the opportunity it gave him to bring his extraordinary knowledge of the world to thousands upon thousands of you, our wonderful clients.
“He was nonetheless astonished by how successfully Great Experience Travel has bounced back from the Covid pandemic and was immensely grateful to you all for your support of the agency.”
The statement also said: “David’s daughter, Daniella, was with him when he slipped away peacefully and had spent the day with him in the hospital singing and reading to him. The last words he heard were her saying ‘I love you’. There was never a time they parted ways, or even put the phone down to each other, without saying those words.”
The statement hailed his “incredible” team – Mandy Morris, Sally Crierie, Amy Ahyan, Sarah Salter and Martin – who continue to look after Great Experience Travel with “passion and love”.
“He always felt so privileged to work with such kind and supportive people, including those of you who used to work in the office, and all of the suppliers and contacts he had such excellent relationships with,” said the statement.
“As are David and Daniella’s wishes, there will not be a funeral service. Instead, Dani asks you to think of David when you look back on photos of your cherished holidays, and remember how his memory and eye for detail were unparalleled, as was his ability to tell a story – and boy did he love telling a story!
“Dani will see him in every beautiful view she ever looks out to, especially those of the mountains that meant so much to her and her parents. Please raise a glass to our dear David.”
She has asked that any donations in memory of David are made to Macmillan Cancer Support.
• Gary Wardrope, chief executive of Ortharize and founder of Get Travelling, met David almost 40 years ago in Mayrhofen, Austria, when they were both working with Neilson.
David was an area manager – speaking fluent French and German – and Gary was a trainee manager working with travel agents.
They became friends and kept in touch over the years, supporting each other when they set up their own businesses around 2008.
“He could really talk – he would put me to shame,” recalled Gary. “He made us laugh talking about Austria and on a transfer going past a place called Going, said that’s Going, going, gone.”
“He was a great guy and loved his music. He was a classical pianist too.
“The agency was very successful and came out of Covid very well, with Mandy and the staff.”
Gary regularly visited David in hospital and last saw him on Friday.
• Julie Franklin, head of agency sales at Inghams, said David was “a genuinely lovely person”.
She recalled how he had a “soft spot” for the operator as daughter Dani had worked for Inghams as a resort rep in Austria.
“He always had a story to tell, and always had time for you – we had lots of ski chats,” she said.
“He was one of the good guys and ran such a good agency – they always have a lot of support from operators. It’s really sad news.”
She said his wife Debbie had died suddenly in January and she’d been in touch with him recently to ask how he was, when she discovered that he was ill.
Main picture: David Gambier with daughter Daniella
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