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For these agents, every day is Mother’s Day

Once a year, we honour the special role our mothers play in our lives. But what’s it like when mum’s influence extends beyond the home and into the family travel business? We chatted with three mum-and-child Travellers Choice agents to discover the pros and cons of working together.

Once a year, we honour the special role our mothers play in our lives. But what’s it like when mum’s influence extends beyond the home and into the family travel business? We chatted with three mum-and-child Travellers Choice agents to discover the pros and cons of working together.

Parent and child dynamics can be fascinating at the best of times, but what about when you work together in a fast-paced, high-pressure industry like travel?

We caught up with three Travellers Choice mum-and-child partnerships to understand the highlights, lessons, and perks of working together.

Ann McQuade and Ally McQuade

Ann McQuade launched Melbourne’s Gem Travel and Tours with her father-in-law, Maurie McQuade, in 1977. Her daughter Ally enjoyed a successful career in hospitality and worked as head chef in some of London’s top restaurants before moving into travel. She’s poised to become the third generation to run the agency.

Travellers Choice
Ally and Ann McQuade, Gem Travel & Tours, mother-daughter team ©Travellers Choice

How did Ally end up working in the business?
Ann: “From time to time, when she came home from overseas, Ally would help out in the agency. During COVID, I moved to a home-based model and needed help because it was a new process and technologically challenging.

“Ally then started working with me permanently, which really took the pressure off. Now she’s just about taken over, and because she’s so efficient, I’m almost redundant.”

What are the advantages of working together?
Ann: “We complement each other really well, which means when either of us are away, it’s easy for us to slot in and look after the business.

“In terms of disadvantages, I’ve tended to do back-office work at night, but Ally has more balance in her life. I’ve had to remember that business hours are business hours and not call her at 8 o’clock!”

Ally: “Being a family member helps because we have a large existing customer base with relationships developed over decades. When I get calls, they always ask about Mum, which is nice, so it’s more than just a business connection.”

What do you most admire about your mum?
Ally: “Mum operates on such a nice trust level with her clients. They know she’s focused on getting the best result for them, and I know how tenacious she is in delivering great customer service.

“Mum also recognises that every person is individual, and she factors that in, making all the difference.”

What is one lesson you want to pass on to Ally?
Ann: “Just keep striving for excellence by doing the very best for every client. Ally already does that really well. Our industry has a lot of potential, and it warms my heart to think the business will be handed onto a third generation and stay within the Travellers Choice family.

“Having the support of the network has been invaluable over the years, and it’s nice to know she’ll be part of a group in which everyone helps each other.”

Clare and Tia Horton

With the travel industry facing so many challenges, Adelaide-based agent Clare Horton wasn’t too keen on her daughter Tia joining her business, Top Deck Travel. Tia, however, wanted to try something different, and post-COVID, Clare needed the help. Happily, it’s worked out well.

Travellers Choice
Clare and Tia Horton, mum and daughter team at Top Deck Travel ©Travellers Choice

What have been the pros and cons of working together?
Tia: “As a family business, there is a lot of goodwill from clients once they know I’m Clare’s daughter. Also, if I do get a little grumpy and snap, it’s good knowing it’ll all be fine two seconds later.

“In terms of the cons, when we are together, we always talk about work. Dad has to tell us to stop talking shop.”

What’s the best thing about working with Tia?
Clare: “It’s good knowing I can call her anytime I have a problem with a client. But what’s really nice is that Tia now sees a future because she knows one day the business will be hers. That means she’s started seeing Top Deck Travel from an owner’s perspective, not just as an employee.”

What do you most admire about your mum?
Tia: “I think it’s her business head and fantastic problem-solving skills. She’s always got a Plan B, C, D, and E. Plus her people skills and, of course, her knowledge. She’s been in travel for 25 years, so there’s not much she hasn’t seen or done.”

What lessons have you tried to pass on to Tia?
Clare: “Patience. Tia’s generation grew up with computers and does everything so quickly with technology. She needed to understand that a lot of our clients are older and need help, and she’s learnt that really well.”

“I’ve also passed on the importance of strong personal relationships, not just with clients, but also with suppliers and, through Travellers Choice, fellow independent agents. As I tell her, it’s a small industry, and you never know where people will pop up.”

Sue Sullivan and Charlie Sullivan Close

When Charlie Sullivan Close finished school a couple of years ago, he went travelling, working across the world. In January, he returned to the Sunshine Coast just as his mother’s agency, Easy Travel and Cruise, was looking for another consultant.

Travellers Choice
Sue Sullivan with Charlie Sullivan Close, Easy Travel and Cruise, mother and son duo ©Travellers Choice

What are the advantages/disadvantages of working together?
Sue: “We have lots of fun. But training your son can be a challenge. Sometimes he rebels and throws highlighters across the office. He’s resigned twice!”

Charlie: “I like the carpooling and flexible working hours (I’m known around here as Half-day Harry). I’m pretty sure I get given tasks that other employees wouldn’t. Plus, I can never take a sickie.”

How do customers respond once they know you are mother and son? 

Charlie: Mum won’t let them know.

Sue: That’s because Charlie is like a drug to middle-aged women. I’m worried that if I say something it may curb their behaviour!

Charlie, what do you most admire about your mum?
Charlie: “The good vibes when things go wrong. She has a really positive attitude and a relaxed management style.”

Sue, what business lesson do you want to pass on?
Sue: “The thing I say is, “take more holidays” because it’s too easy to get caught up in the running of the business. Also, always put customers at the centre of everything you do.

“Finally, I’ve shared that it’s important to be part of a network that supports you in the same way you support your clients. That’s something we have with Travellers Choice.”

Discover more

Think you and your son or daughter could team up in the travel industry? Travellers Choice could be the way to go! Contact the award-winning Travellers Choice team at admin@travellerschoice.com.au.

Ready to become a member? Head straight here!

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