A HIGH-FLYING travel firm boss who has created more than 50 jobs in less than a year will tell Wrexham business leaders how his 35-store empire remains rooted in the heart of the town.
Don Bircham, Managing Director of Hays Travel North West, will share the secrets of his success with members of an influential business group, Wrexham Business Professionals (WBP) on Friday September 21.
The group is made up of successful businesses and highly skilled professional firms of solicitors, accountants and other business professionals working together to raise the profile of enterprise and expertise that exists in the region and beyond.
The event, to be held at the Catrin Finch Centre, in Wrexham, will be entitled ‘Powering Regional Prosperity – The Direction of Travel’.
The other keynote speaker will be Ken Skates AM, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport.
Don started his career in the travel industry, straight out of school, almost 40 years ago when he got a job with a local travel agent at the age of 16 in his home town of Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire. Later working for Thomas Cook, he soon climbed the career ladder and was offered a regional manager position for North Wales and Merseyside which brought him and his young family to live in Mold.
His chain of 35 independent travel agencies, located throughout North Wales and the North West, now employs 200 people and has a turnover in excess of £75m. It is the main partner of the hugely successful Hays Travel based in Sunderland which has just announced a turnover of more than £1bn and is the UK’s largest independent travel agency.
Don’s own firm is on a major expansion trajectory by itself, having opened seven new stores, including branches in Rhyl and Colwyn Bay, in the last eight months. He has also introduced a £1m rolling programme of refurbishments for a large portion of his travel agencies which is also due to be completed by the end of 2018.
Father-of-two Don, who is one of three directors at the helm of the successful Fat Boar pub chain and a former Wrexham AFC Chief Executive, lives in Padeswood with wife Ruth who is also involved in the business.
He revealed his plans for the talk and said: “I am quite privileged to be sharing the stage with Ken Skates and my plan for the talk is to share a bit of my story and if any of it is helpful to people, then that’s fine by me.
“I will be talking about my career in travel, the fact the travel agency is still relevant to customers today, the fact we still have our Head Office based in Wrexham and the roots of the company remain firmly in North Wales and how we progressed from the first shop in Mold in 2000 to where we are now.
“It’s funny because people told me when I opened up in Mold, don’t do it, that I was mad, leaving behind a good job, that the travel agency model was finished.
“I had a similar reaction when we proposed opening the Fat Boar in Wrexham after the success of our first pub in Mold. Lots of people told me that ‘people don’t eat out in Wrexham’, ‘it will not work’, ‘there’s not the night life to sustain it’, but that simply hasn’t proved to be true – quite the opposite and both Fat Boar sites have been very successful.
“The Wrexham branch of our travel stores is the most successful of all the Hays Travel branches we operate so it proves, without doubt to me, that there is a very strong case for growth, prosperity and success here in the town and further afield in the region.”
WBP Chair Gill Kreft said she was pleased to welcome both Don and Ken Skates AM to speak at the event.
She said: “Don is a highly respected and talented businessman who has built an extremely successful business over the years providing an impressive number of jobs for local people with built-in career progression and creating work for other firms in the area via continual refurbishment of stores and expanding the numbers of stores which the group.
“Through out the years Don has remained loyal to the region and to promoting its prosperity.
“What’s brilliant is that he is repeating this success again in a different field with the rise of the Fat Boar pub chain which deserves its extremely loyal following of customers.
“We are also very pleased to welcome back Ken Skates AM who is a champion of Welsh business in Wrexham and the North Wales region and to hear more from him about the Welsh Government’s economic strategy “Prosperity for All”.”