By Donogh Moore
Society Travel recently hit a notable milestone, when they celebrated twenty years in business. The local agency was founded by Geraldine Dolan, daughter of Brian and Freda Dolan (née Headd) of Carrowreagh, Taughmaconnell.
First opening its doors to the public in December 1998, they specialise in a wide range of trips; from camping packages to a variety of continental destinations, to the more intimate honeymoons. They also organise the annual Clonfert Diocesan Pilgrimage, which sees a mixture of invalids, elderly pilgrims and volunteers depart for Lourdes for a week. This year’s pilgrimage takes place from the 15 – 20 August.
After many years working in the travel trade and much encouragement from friends, family and most importantly her two brothers, Gerry and Pat, she set out on her own. “I decided I wanted to build something from scratch. I have enjoyed every moment of it, the sense of accomplishment I cannot describe. It’s the best thing I have done and it would not have been possible without the support of our customers who are with us since we first opened our door on that crisp December morning with my great friend Patricia Hynes (née Dervin) with me that morning” recalls Geraldine. Society Travel deals with specialist groups for all destinations, and for larger, more comprehensive trips, these companies will arrange everything from accommodation to visas. While the general consensus is that booking holidays online is always a better option, there is a difference between both methods.
Travel agents operate with bonded companies, who offer security both locally and abroad, should something beyond your control go awry. They also need to remain up to date with the constantly changing laws and regulations regarding travel and insurance, so they can offer advice and guidance to prospective customers with any query they may have. While booking a holiday online is fine for a quick and direct trip, when it comes to more than one flight, holiday-goers often turn to travel agents due to many issues arising, such as varying passport validity issues, visa restrictions and minimum connection layovers at foreign airports.
Whilst they have had staff come and go over the years all in all with a very low attrition rate. Glenn Burke, who is highly respected and sought-after by all their customers, due to his level of knowledge ranging from cruises to ski trips. Bridie Dolan works in the accounts section of the business, after working in an accountant’s office for many years. Yvonne Garvey and Anna Guider cover sales and admin respectively, as well as dealing with potential visa issues, after having worked in local outlets for many years before joining. Her memories of the opening days of the firm are tinged with sadness as her founding employee Patricia, who was such a fun loving person to work with, passed away tragically in an accident in Nov. 2004.
When they opened in 1998, they got many cards and good luck wishes, but one that stands out most in Geraldine’s head to this day was a note written on a slip of paper, (as he had no money to buy the card) was from her 8-year-old son Brian: “Best of Luck Mam, Hope it works out, Probably the best Travel Agent in the World”
"We would just like to extend, from the bottom of our hearts, a massive Thank You to everyone we have done business with over the years, especially our loyal customers for your continuous support. Without you, all this would not be possible. Here’s to another twenty of getting you going places!” exclaims Geraldine. For more information and regular updates from Society Travel, you can visit their Facebook Page or pop into the shop.
If you have any news items about Ballinasloe, please use this link to contact us