After a long and successful career in the travel industry, Lol Nichols has bowed out at the top, choosing to leave these tropical shores and spend more time in his new villa in Spain (we can’t think why).
Having secured his first travel job back in 1972, the industry has changed beyond recognition within that time. From starting his career working in busy Oxford Street with Thomas Cook to getting his sea legs with Costa, he has long held a prime position and been able to watch the travel industry change into its current carnation.
Here, he recaps his career, and describes how he ended up as general sales manager for Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.
Good luck Lol, from all the team at Cruise Adviser!
I went on my first package holiday with my parents and two sisters in June 1967; it was to Mallorca with tour operator Clarksons, flying with Autair International, and from then on I knew that I wanted to work in travel. As a family we had been to the Costa Brava a few years earlier by car which although exciting, was not as exciting as flying!
So in 1972 I successfully applied for a job with Thomas Cook as a travel clerk in a branch in Oxford Street which has long since closed. Two years later I joined Thomson Holidays and was amongst the first group of guys to be employed in their Reservations Department! I took every opportunity to travel to destinations that I had dreamed of going to when I first became travel aware and would paw over glossy holiday brochures for hours! I recall Thomson Holidays featuring cruises on four ships, Ithaca, Jason, Jupiter and Calypso the latter being my first experience of a cruise on a weekend trip to Rotterdam.
After a series of management roles within the Sales Division at Thomson and after 19 years I took my first foray into working for a cruise line which was Costa when they merged with Ocean Cruise Lines. However 6 months later I received a call from Nigel Lingard at Fred. Olsen and the rest is history as they say!
When I joined Fred’s in April 1994 they were operating just one ship – Black Prince out of Harwich and Southampton, however my role as the national sales manager also included promoting the range of cruise lines that Fred’s acted as the UK sales agent for including Star Clippers, which sister company Fred. Olsen Travel still manages today. Those were the days when demand for ex UK cruises outstripped supply and we rarely sailed with empty cabins.
During my almost 22 years at Fred. Olsen, cruising has grown at a faster rate than any other sector of the holiday industry and Fred’s fleet grew to five ships before Black Prince was retired in 2009.
It has been a tremendous experience to be working in the cruise sector during this time and to see and experience the amazingly diverse range of ships and products that make up the cruise industry today.
I’ve been privileged to meet a lot of great people along the way, many of whom I count as friends and that’s the great thing about this industry, it’s hard work – sales don’t just happen, but we have a lot of fun and it is incredibly social and I’m not just talking about Facebook! I am now passionate about cruising as a holiday and take at least two cruise holidays a year.
During my career in travel and cruising I have travelled the world and had some amazing experiences, which was my ambition when I left school and there are many places still to visit which I hope to achieve during my retirement as in the words of Hans Christian Anderson “To travel is to live”.