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Celebrating 40 years in travel: Robyn and Murray Sinfield, Home Travel Company

Congratulations to Robyn and Murray Sinfield, who are gathered today in Hobart to celebrate 40 successful years of running their business, Home Travel Company. Ahead of the festivities, Karryon spoke to Robyn who took us back to where it all began in 1984.

Congratulations to Robyn and Murray Sinfield, who are gathered today in Hobart to celebrate 40 successful years of running their business, Home Travel Company. Ahead of the festivities, Karryon spoke to Robyn who took us back to where it all began in 1984.

Robyn and Murray Sinfield established Home Travel Company in 1984. They have won many awards and are seasoned Virtuoso hosts on luxury cruises – and having travelled to more than 120 countries, there’s not a lot they don’t know about their beloved industry!

Robyn-and-Murray-Sinfeld-first-week-on-the-job-in-1984
Robyn and Murray Sinfeld on their first week on the job on 1 May, 1984.

As you and Murray celebrate Home Travel Company’s 40th anniversary this week, can you tell us how you got into the travel business?

When we were first married, we bought a newsagency and once a year we’d take a break. In May 1983 we were booking a trip to the US and I said to the owner of Wilsons Travel Service in Ulverstone, “When you want to sell out, let us know.”

When I told Murray, he said, “What would we know about a travel agency?” but in November 1983 the call came, and we said yes. We did courses in Melbourne for the next six months and took over on 1 May 1984. The rest, as they say, is history!

How has Home Travel Company evolved since you started?

We sold our retail stores across Tasmania in 2006 to the RACT and from then on worked remotely to manage the combined businesses – we couldn’t be in nine offices at once!

Now we WFA (work from anywhere) most of the year, but when we’re at home we have a professional office that’s not actually in our home – it works well as we have always worked by appointment.

Robyn-and-Murray-Sinfeld-in-Japan-April-2024
Robyn and Murray Sinfeld in Japan, April 2024.

What are the biggest changes you have seen in the cruise industry over the past 40 years?

People say that travel has changed but it hasn’t really – you still need to have great product knowledge to share with your client base to stand out from the crowd.

What has changed is the lack of training many suppliers give their teams, either through lack of budget or time, and that’s a sad reflection on our industry.

Travel has always had fads. There was a time when everyone wanted to offer river cruising, now it’s expedition cruising.

Expedition is sharing our global experiences in what I call the “ologies” – that’s the teams onboard who are experts in ornithology, anthropology, geology etc – and how they take a mug like me and make me come away with a whole new perspective on our world.

How many travel advisors are there in the HTC team?

I actively sell with three others – Karen Flood, Stacey Lyons and Kyle Duffield, who all live in Tasmania. I do the sales and marketing and Murray keeps us all honest with the finances and everything admin. We worked out early on what our strengths and weaknesses are!

We all love what we do and as business owners we endeavour to keep up with trends and always have the best commercial approach to our business. We recently joined Flight Centre’s Luxury Travel Collection, so our local business benefits from the global perspective, which further enhances our Virtuoso membership and services for clients.

Robyn and Murray Sinfield at Borgo Sant Andrea Hotel, Amalfi Coast, 2023.
Robyn and Murray Sinfield at Borgo Sant Andrea Hotel, Amalfi Coast, 2023.

Can you tell us about some of the awards you have won?

We are both very grateful for the awards we’ve achieved over our 40 years. Each one has been at a special milestone of our business together.

Standouts include being named Best Cruise Agency of the Year by ICCA (now Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) in its inaugural awards in 2001; CLIA’s Best Mobile Cruise Advisor, Australia in 2019; and the pinnacle for cruise, CLIA’s Cruise Champion Australasia in 2023.

The Cruise Champion award was very special as it wasn’t about the sales I made with our CLIA cruise partners, but it was about what I had offered to the cruise industry on a daily basis.

Australian 'Cruise Champion' Robyn Sinfield (Home Travel Company)
Robyn awarded the Australian ‘Cruise Champion’ CLIA award in 2023 (pictured with Nicole Constantin, Explora Journeys).

What are the secrets of Home Travel Company’s success?

The best agencies are there for their clients before, during and after the journey. We provide 24/7 support and advisors who are honest with clients.

Twenty years ago, we were invited to be foundation members of Virtuoso in Australia and New Zealand. That was and remains extremely important because it taught us how to VIP everything we do; how to have special relationships with our partners (be they hotels, tour companies or cruise lines); and how to provide exceptional service at every level of our clients’ journeys.

How would you define ‘luxury cruising’ and what trends are you seeing in the sector?

The word ‘luxury’ is often used very loosely! It means a state of great comfort or elegance, especially when involving great expense, but it’s more than that. It’s an unrivalled and exclusive opportunity, it’s personalised service, it’s creating unforgettable moments, some of which money can’t buy.

People want to feel special, therefore bespoke and unique experiences are hot. Covid taught us all the power of being together, so inter-generational family trips, often paid for by the grandparents, are immensely popular. In a nutshell, it’s all about small and boutique rather than big and brash.

Antarctica_credit Derek Oven_Robyn and Murray Sinfield
Antarctica_credit Derek Oven

What are some of your favourite cruise destinations?

The most gobsmacking: Antarctica, you can’t describe it unless you’ve been and may it always stay the same.
The easiest: Europe, ideal for non-cruisers either river or ocean.
The most interesting: West Coast of Africa, where poverty and happiness go hand in hand.
The best itinerary: Japan and the Inland Sea, to visit the main islands by ship.

What is your next cruise?

Murray and I both have birthdays in June, and we always choose a Northern Hemisphere cruise to celebrate. This year we have 22 nights on Regent Seven Seas’ newest beauty, Seven Seas Grandeur, in May and June and we just can’t wait!

Regent Seven Seas Grandeur
Next up: Robyn and Murray will spend 22 nights on Seven Seas Grandeur, the sixth ship for Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

What advice would you offer to someone who’s starting a career as a travel advisor?

It’s not so much about the pay packet as it is about the experiences. Travel offers opportunities that aren’t available in other industries. In order to be able to take these, you need to do the groundwork and train yourself and your partner or family to willingly do this with you – it is often just about time and if you really want something, you will make the time. Attend every event or course that you can arrange around your home life.

If you want to sell cruise with confidence, membership of CLIA is essential as it educates from a fabulous online platform. Attending special events such as CLIA Live and Cruise 360 will help you better serve your cruise clients and help you grow your business.

For more information, visit hometravelcompany.com.au