Lancashire cruise firm boss wins inaugural travel industry award
A Lancashire entrepreneur has become the first person to win a travel industry award named in honour of one of the sector’s best known figures.
James Cole, founder and managing director of Panache Cruises, was awarded the John Hays Entrepreneur of the Year Award, named in tribute to the founder of Hays Travel, who died in 2020.
Cole, who is the first-ever recipient of the trophy, got the award at the all-new Travel Industry Awards by Travel Trade Gazette, attended by over 1,000 of the most senior industry executives.
John Hay’s wife, Dame Irene Hays and daughter, Helen Hays, joined TTG’s senior editorial team to judge the submissions and choose a winner.
Judges said: “This was a highly competitive category, with many strong submissions, but James’s entrepreneurial flair and laser-focus were outstanding.
“His new business idea which, against all odds, was able to launch during the height of the pandemic has already established a fantastic base for future trading.”
James Cole said: “After being in the industry for the past 23 years, accepting this award was one of the biggest moments in my life and something I will cherish always.
“Launching Panache Cruises was always about the long-term not just the short-term trading conditions. The market is now returning, I am building a strong, responsive and loyal customer base and the Panache team have been truly exemplary.
"It’s been a hard but rewarding 18 months, and I feel truly privileged and honored to have been given this highly prestigious award in the memory of the one of the UK travel industry’s greatest and most respected businessmen.”
Cole launched Panache Cruises in July 2020 after using the first period of lockdown to develop the business plan. In its first year of trading, the business generated more than £3m, despite there being an international travel ban.
His ambition is for Panache Cruises, based at Strawberry Fields in Chorley, to become the UK’s leading retailer of luxury cruises in the UK by 2027.
TTG editor Sophie Griffiths added: “The Travel Industry Awards by TTG – taking place for the first time in 2021 – celebrate those travel companies and travel professionals who put customers at the heart of their business, who are most deserving of consumers’ trust, and who have responded to the challenges of the last 12 months by making positive changes to their products, services and corporate cultures.”
“With a robust process of judging panels, the Travel Industry Awards by TTG are the toughest to win in the travel sector, and any company which takes home a trophy on the night can be incredibly proud of their achievement."