Newcastle business Escape Travel moves to create ripples by chartering an entire ship for a cruise in Southern France

It takes two: Adam and Fiona Pearson own and run Escape Travel franchises in Newcastle.
It takes two: Adam and Fiona Pearson own and run Escape Travel franchises in Newcastle.

You attended Whitebridge High then abandoned plans for uni. Why?  

My Dad was home from work recovering from a heart attack, and I’d just finished the HSC. We were chatting and I mentioned I wouldn’t mind giving what he did a go. Although I did well at [school] and had enrolled in computer science at The University of Newcastle, I was tired of studying. I just wanted to work. I did six weeks work experience at Jayes Travel in Newcastle, when it was owned by the original Jenkins family, loved it.I quickly realised I wanted to travel. I really didn’t like history at school, but seeing it in the flesh is a whole other story - there’s nothing like standing in Rome and seeing thousands of years of history. It’s fantastic and I love it. I guess I’m living proof you don’t have to go to uni to have a successful career.

"I’m living proof you don’t have to go to uni to have a successful career."

Adam Pearson

Your first impressions of the travel industry?

I loved it. It is fast paced, fun, the people we worked with and clients we dealt with where happy and it was all about making great holidays for people – while some things have changed, this hasn’t.

 When did you and your dad open your Harvey World Travel store and how did the partnership work?

Twenty one years ago. We had 28 years of experience between us (Dad had been in the travel industry for 20 years and by then I had been for eight years) and coming together meant we were able to capitalise on this. We’re lucky to have a great relationship so there’s been no problems working together. Mum did the books and my brother joined us later the same year that we opened, as did Angela Jenkins, who is still with us.

 In 2015 you took over the business, which rebranded to Escape Travel and has five Newcastle franchises. What role do you and wife Fiona have?

Although we own the business together our roles are different. I manage day to day operations and oversee all five offices in Toronto, Mt Hutton, Charlestown, Glendale and Kotara, and Fiona does the administration. 

Describe your average day?

Supporting frontline staff, arranging advertising, negotiating group travel arrangements and looking for future opportunities, liaising with travel partners, suppliers and our head office, keeping an eye on finances and generally ensuring that every thing is running smoothly – I have a great team and get a lot of help!

 What are the biggest challenges to your industry?

The misconception that booking online saves money – it doesn’t. The experience of a well travelled agent counts when booking a holiday, especially someone who’s been there and done what you want to do. I’ve heard of so many stories where people have missed some amazing experiences in various parts of the world because they simply didn’t know it was there or booked flights that have taken more than 30hrs to get to Europe!  Find a good agent and stick with them. A travel agent is an agent for their clients. Book online or direct with a supplier and you’ll only get their options. A good agent will know the options and the differences between them. Cheapest and best are two different things.

 And to your business?

In line with the above, we employ local people who genuinely care about our customers and love the opportunity to make the best holidays – the internet doesn’t. Purchasing your holiday through an agent keeps some of the profits here in Australia and doesn’t cost you any more.

 You have just said you are the only travel agent in Australia to charter an entire ship on a cruise down the Rhone to southern France. How do you know it’s the first of its kind?

I’ve double-checked this with Emma Davey at Scenic, and she assures me this is an Australian first for a travel agent. It’s also a first for Escape Travel (and the Flight Centre group of companies), for Newcastle and Scenic. Plenty have taken groups to Europe, none have charted the whole ship though.

 Why the move?

Chartering an entire luxury cruise ship means all of the customers come from us, and from the same geographic region, ie Newcastle/Hunter. Over the years of taking groups of people overseas, we’ve seen some lovely friendships blossom. This happens because everyone lives in the same region and friendship can be continued after the trip. Just imagine going on a trip with 150 people who all know each other. The South of France has always been somewhere that I’ve wanted to visit. We’re visiting the Beaujolais wine region, a gourmet splurge in Lyon, and dinner and a classical concert in the Pope’s Palace in Avignon. The palace is not open to the general public and is only available to the French Parliament and Escape Travel for access. There are also other stops.

 For those who haven’t cruised, what’s the appeal?

All inclusive luxury and unpacking once! Everything’s included. The only extra’s on board are spa treatments and getting your hair done, everything else is taken care of – meals, drinks, entertainment, shore excursions and even specialty dining.

Favourite destination?

My ‘win lotto’ go-back-to place would be the Maldives. Spectacular – the quintessential island paradise.