West Midlands-based business, Your Co-op Travel, is celebrating multiple award-wins, following the prestigious Travel Weekly Agent Achievement Awards, which took place in London on 16 September 2021.

Part of The Midcounties Co-operative, Your Co-op Travel has its regional head office in Walsall and 76 branches across England’s mid counties, including 19 in the West Midlands.

The company scooped the Central England Large Agency award for the eighth consecutive year, and Walsall-based Learning and Development Manager, David Watts-Davies, was presented with Agency Support Team of the Year award.

Launched more than 25 years ago by leading multimedia company and magazine for the UK travel industry, Travel Weekly, the annual Agent Achievement Awards are regarded as the highest honour in the industry for both individual travel agents and agencies. This year’s awards were the first to be held since the start of the pandemic and were designed to honour those travel agencies and travel agents who have truly represented the best of the industry over the past 18 months.

Hosted by comedian, Tom Allen, and Travel Weekly editor-in-chief, Lucy Huxley, at a glittering awards ceremony in London, the winners are selected based on voting by travel industry suppliers including tour operators, airlines, cruise lines and tourist boards, with the individual agent categories decided by panels of expert judges.

The news of the award wins was followed by a government announcement on 17 September that the traffic light system is to be simplified from 4 October, with just two categories – “red” and “rest of the world” – which will provide a higher degree of clarity for travellers and a welcome boost for the tourism industry. Additionally, from 4 October fully vaccinated travellers will no longer be required to take a test before returning to the UK, and the expensive “day-2” PCR test will be replaced with a cheaper, lateral flow option towards end October, removing two significant barriers for holidaymakers.

Learning and Development Manager, David Watts-Davies, said: “I am so pleased to have been recognised within this amazing industry as the winner of the agency support team member of the year award. During the pandemic I have continued to develop our colleagues and provide them with the knowledge and skills to deliver the high level of service that our customers and members expect, and I have taken on additional roles outside of Learning & Development during the pandemic to support Your Co-op Travel and also our wider Society. This year is my 20th anniversary of working within this incredible industry and winning this award is the icing on the cake.”

Natalie Turner, Head of Branches for Your Co-op Travel, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have been named Central England Large Agency of the Year for the eighth year running.

“It’s been a challenging 18 months for our colleagues, but the service and support they have given to their customers throughout the pandemic has been unwavering. This award is testament to their passion, resilience, and expertise.

“The government shake-up of the traffic light system and testing requirements for fully-vaccinated holidaymakers, the news of which came hot on the heels of our award-win, has given us all a boost too. That, along with the news of more destinations being moved off the government’s “red” list, including the Maldives, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Egypt and Oman, and the US announcing on Monday (20 September) that it will lift the ban on Brits visiting from November, if they are fully vaccinated, gives holidaymakers a wider choice of destination, particularly for an autumn or winter-sun escape. We saw a 58 per cent jump in holiday bookings on Monday 20 September, compared with the previous Monday, with Turkey leading the way for October half-term getaways, followed by the Canary Islands and Spain. We also took several bookings to the Maldives, following the news that the paradise destination will come off the “red” list from 22 September.

“We advise anyone looking to travel to book through a travel agent, who can give them all the information they need, including where they can go and what testing and documentation they will need. Customers should remember that just because a country is on the UK government’s “go” list, this doesn’t mean the destination is viable for a British traveller taking a holiday. Some countries still won’t allow visitors from the UK in, either at all or without a significant period of quarantine on arrival. An experienced travel agent can navigate holidaymakers through the rules and regulations that are relevant to their vaccination status and ensure the holiday is a success.

“It’s also important to book with a tour operator that offers flexibility, which the many and varied travel companies we work with do. For added peace of mind, at Your Co-op Travel, we’re offering customers booking package holidays with our own tour operator, Co-op Holidays, low deposits, flexible payment options, free changes and cancellations and cash refunds within 10 days, as part of the Co-op Holidays Promise. We’re also offering, in partnership with Your Co-op Pharmacy, a discount on government-accredited Covid-19 tests, when customers book a holiday with Your Co-op Travel. The discount code is issued upon booking confirmation.”

Your Co-op Travel, which was recently awarded “Green” status by Which? magazine in their Holiday Checker - a comparison of the flexible booking and cancellation policies of more than 70 holiday companies, has branches in Dudley, Walsall, Sedgley, Solihull, Wednesbury, Wednesfield, Wolverhampton, Stourbridge, Halesowen, Aldridge, Chelmsley Wood, Erdington, Bilston, Kingswinford, Bloxwich, Sutton Coldfield, Brownhills and Finchfield, as well as a Carrick Travel shop in Chesleymore, which joined the Your Co-op family in October 2020 but continues to trade as Carrick Travel.