5 minutes with Debby Harland
IS THERE A STORY BEHIND THE GOLDEN TIMES NAME?
Yes, its connected to my Travel Industry background
WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTERESTED IN TRAVEL AS A CAREER?
In 1983, aged 15, I was selected to participate in a 3-week work experience programme at Thomas Cook Head Office in Peterborough. Here I worked within the “back office” of the travel industry. Getting to see the workings of marketing, operations, currency exchange and hotel contracting. I soon realised that travel was always going to be my first-choice career. I was then offered a place on their 1-year Youth Training Scheme which resulted in me accepting a full-time position with Thomas Cook.
DID YOUR CAREER TAKE YOU OVERSEAS?
Yes, it did. I was lucky enough to have many family holidays overseas and had always thought that travel reps working in resorts must have the best job in the world! So, a few years down the line, once I was old enough, I joined Cosmos Holidays as an Overseas Rep, where I was sent off to the Greek Island of Kos to work on their family summer sun programme.
HOW LONG DID YOU WORK OVERSEAS? AND WHERE WERE YOU BASED?
After my summer season came to a close, I had the opportunity to continue into the Winter Programme and jetted off to sample life in the Algarve, Portugal. Still working for Cosmos, I was transferred to their over 50s Programme which happened to be called “Golden Times”. This seemed like a great programme, over 50s leaving the damp old winter weather behind in the UK and spending anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months in-resort. Something I thought was definitely going to be a good plan for my later years! I spent around 10 years working overseas, my adventures took me to Majorca, Tenerife, Fuerteventura, mainland Spain and Malta. From being a Rep, I moved on to working for Spanish travel companies, planning excursions, being the airport controller and eventually becoming resort manager. I just loved this fascinating Industry.
SOUNDS FANTASTIC, WHEN & WHY DID YOU RETURN TO THE UK?
I returned for the Millennium Celebrations and settled (or so I thought) in Surrey. Still working in travel, I set off to work in London each day in a recruitment role, helping people in the travel industry to find jobs both overseas and based in the UK Head Offices. I was then recruited to run the Kingston Branch of “Going Places” Retail Travel Shop, training sales advisors to book holidays and educating them on the overseas operations.
BEFORE GOLDEN TIMES DID YOU, WORK IN ANY OTHER INDUSTRY?
Actually, yes, I did. I worked as an Estate Agent while living in Surrey and this is how I heard that Hastings was a town on the up and that the East Sussex coast had the sunniest climate in England. By this time I was married and expecting my first child, I longed to find a family home close to the sea. So 16 years ago we packed up and travelled (not too far this time) to settle in Hastings, where I still live with my husband, two teenaged daughters, and the newest member of our family, Lottie the Shih-Tzu.
SO, HOW WAS GOLDEN TIMES MAGAZINE BORN?
After a few years of raising my children and working for a publishing company on a pre-school magazine, I really wanted to run my own business. I wanted a job that offered flexible hours, the chance to work from home so I could always be there for the children, so I created that job for myself by launching the magazine. As I had gained some vital experience in the publishing industry, I felt confident enough to feel I could launch my own Family Magazine. It then dawned on me that there was another market that no one else seemed to be addressing directly, the over 50s.
That’s when Golden Times was born, we checked if we could use the name and, to our surprise and happiness we found that Cosmos had dissolved their over 50s programme some time ago.
So, Golden Times Magazine came to life 8 years ago and has been growing from strength to strength ever since!
TALK TO US ABOUT YOUR NEW ADVENTURE BACK IN THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY
I have never lost my passion for holidays and travel, and have always enjoyed travelling with my family over the years. One of my favourite hobbies is researching and booking our next trip, whether that be a city break, beach holiday, staycation or adventure holiday.
SO IS YOUR PASSION FOR TRAVEL NOW JUST A HOBBY RATHER THAN A CAREER?
It has been for a while, but over the last three months, I have trained as an Independent Travel Agent. I have qualified in various cruising packages including Celebrity Cruises, part of the same group as Royal Caribbean. I am also very interested in one of the fastest growing sectors of the travel industry which is “River Cruising”. Many people are upgrading their city breaks to river cruises and I have just completed training with Uniworld Boutique River Collection. Of course, I can book all types of holiday to a variety of destinations but I am really keen to specialise in cruising. If any readers out there want to find out a bit more, have a look at the ad below: