Your Stories: Imp Travel’s Paul Brewer looks back at more than 50 years in travel

The Lincoln agency founder tells Samantha Mayling receiving the a TTNG lifetime achievement award was a highlight

Q. How did you start in travel?
A. After school, I spent six years at Lindsey County Council. As union social secretary, I booked tours to Blackpool Illuminations, Paris and Amsterdam through Lincoln agency Easons Travel. I met my wife Sue on a trip to Rimini and she moved to Lincoln – a true holiday romance. When I told the agency manager I was interested in becoming an agent, he suggested I apply, and I became a trainee reservations clerk in 1970. My first booking after six months’ training was a 10-day Cosmos coach tour to Lido di Jesolo in Italy. Easons Travel became Ellerman Travel as the Lincolnshire miniple was bought by Ellerman Lines.

My first booking after six months’ training was a 10-day Cosmos coach tour to Lido di Jesolo in Italy

Q. How did your career progress?
A. I recall manually checking ferry stop-sell charts, monthly Travel Trade Club meetings, the long line for rail tickets before ‘trip week’ when local foundries closed for two weeks, and very little work during November and December when bookings were not expected. After my first educational, to Majorca with Thomson Holidays, I won a prize for the best report, which meant I visited the London HQ, had lunch with the MD and was wined and dined.

I managed the Ellerman Travel branch in  Scunthorpe for a year before returning to the Lincoln office as manager, then some years later became area manager. I was not spending much time selling holidays, so after setting up and running Lindum Travel for six years for a local entrepreneur, I set up my own agency in 1983: Imp Travel, in the city centre. Lincoln has a legendary imp and bookings were made by expensive phone calls, so a short name took less time to spell! Staff included Aileen Thomson, who became a director and is with us today. My son Mark worked at Thomas Cook in Peterborough before joining me.

I won a prize for the best report, which meant I visited the London HQ, had lunch with the MD and was wined and dined

Q. How did you cope with Covid?
A. We knew financially we were sound and with careful nurturing could continue servicing our clients for several years without too much concern, although hard-earned money retained in the business would take a hit. We applied for all possible financial assistance, and reduced flexible working was agreed to run a tight ship.

Q. How did trading recover?
A. January 2023 was by far the best month for new business and it continued with several huge bookings ranging from £35k to £85k. Our year-end figures show a return to healthy profit even after the workforce was rewarded with bonuses to recognise the sacrifice made to ensure Imp Travel survived Covid. I’m confident we’ll have another good year, as we already have a lot of business. January 2024 has been good, but not as good as 2023 as we were booking clients for the Rhine Christmas markets cruise with Amadeus last January. We did not have a group offer this January, but will have another ready to book soon when I have agreed the itinerary with the operator.

I’m in my late 70s and still involved. Mark has taken on the responsibilities of MD with enthusiasm and success. He is a quick learner and has a natural talent for figures. He can sell holidays like his dad too, so the future is bright!

The workforce was rewarded with bonuses to recognise the sacrifice made to ensure Imp Travel survived Covid

Q. How do you reflect on your career?
A. My life in travel has been wonderful. I have looked after many clients from their first holidays until they decided on their last – and many became close friends. To open my own agency was challenging, but I was confident I could do it. I’ve visited a lot of countries and hope to add Antarctica before my travelling days are through. I’m working on more group trips, including one to Borneo and Singapore with Wendy Wu Tours, then one to South Africa, which I will host, before I pass on the reins to Mark.

I’ve known many lovely people in the trade, but I owe a great deal of thanks to the late Ray Dry, who I met at Ellerman as he was the local accounts manager and taught me all I needed to know about company accountancy. A highlight was receiving the lifetime achievement award at The Travel Network Group conference in Berlin last December. I was gobsmacked and could not believe the number of people there who congratulated me. Many told me it brought a tear to their eye – absolutely amazing.

I’m working on more group trips, including one to Borneo and Singapore with Wendy Wu Tours, then one to South Africa, which I will host


Tell us about Lincoln’s twin town, Neustadt an Der Weinstrasse in Germany

A travel agent in Neustadt introduced me to my first wine festival in 1974, so I organised a coach tour – the 2024 trip will be the 50th anniversary of my first visit. I joined the Lincoln section of Feucht Fröhliche Neustadter, raising awareness about the region’s wines and raising funds for charities through wine-tasting events.

The FFN has raised £2 million since its foundation 50 years ago – and was instrumental in bringing the first German-style Christmas market to the UK in 1982. The FFN organised it in Lincoln for 15 years or so before handing it to the council – which axed it in 2023. I become known for my tours to Neustadt but needed something else to promote. We started marketing the Agua hotel in Porto Cristo, Majorca, and eventually chartered 25 seats a week on flights from East Midlands airport. The group trips helped establish Imp Travel and clients still reminisce about them.

I accompanied other group trips, to China and then Australia, Malaysia and Borneo, Canadian Rockies and Alaska, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, Galapagos with Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca, a cruise from Chile to Rio, five trips to South Africa – plus European tours including river cruises with AmaWaterways and a recent Rhine Christmas markets cruise with Amadeus.

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