From South Shields newsagents’ office to an award-winning travel company

A travel agents’ business which started life in the back office of a newsagents’ shop is marking 30 years of business.

By Lisa Nightingale
Thursday, 31st January 2019, 8:50 am
Westoe Travel  owners Graeme and Joan Brett and staff from left Gillian Vogel, Martin Brett and Alice Appleby
Westoe Travel owners Graeme and Joan Brett and staff from left Gillian Vogel, Martin Brett and Alice Appleby

When owner Graeme Brett and his wife Joan started Westoe Travel in 1989, they had no idea it would become an award-winning company.

Together, they launched their business in the back of Brett’s newsagents, in Westoe Road, South Shields, working from a desk in its back office.

Westoe Travel in its early days.

It was a way of providing an extra service to customers coming in for their newspapers and confectionary.

They went from selling bus and train tickets and UK short breaks to destinations around the world.

In 2007, the couple sold the newsagents’ business and moved seven doors up on Westoe Road, opening Westoe Travel in the July.

The family-run company has now gone on to become the biggest retail travel agents in the country for the sale of UK holidays and breaks.

Over the years, its customer service has been recognised with a range of awards including Brits Awards UK Travel Agent of the Year six times in a row.

Mr Brett said: “We had both been working in insurance but found the job quite boring, so we started to work in the newsagents in Westoe Road. “There used to be Blueline coaches which run from South Shields to London and people used to come in here first to buy their papers and sweets.

“It was just something to attract people into the newsagents, that’s how it all started, But people started asking about hotel stays so we started looking into and providing hotel stays for customers, and then it was train tickets and UK holidays, then worldwide holidays.

The company employ their son and daughter, Gill and Martin, who have been part of the company since the age of 12.

Mr Brett added: “We love being part of the South Shields community as it is such a supportive place to be which was evident in the way everyone came together to support the families of Chloe (who worked for Westoe Travel) and Liam after what happened in Manchester - which is something we will never forget.”