Award-winning family business thrives despite digital era

Frances Grogan of Grogan Travel in Tuam who was awarded the Worldchoice Travel Agent of the Year. She is pictured with staff members Fidelma Burke, Kersti Costello, Marion Dunne, Fiona Turland and Riona Burke Heffernan. Photo: Johnny Ryan Photography.

In an era in which the vast majority of foreign holidays are booked online, a Tuam travel agency continues to thrive seventy years on – and last weekend the owners were the recipients of a major national award.

The award was in recognition of the service provided by Grogan Travel in Tuam. The endorsements came from airlines, tour operators, cruise companies and hotel bed providers across Europe and further afield.

The Tuam-based operator has been awarded the Worldchoice Travel Agent of the Year and beat off stiff competition from some other more nationally-recognised travel agents in the country. Naturally the management and staff are over the moon.

Grogan Travel in Tuam, which was established shortly after World War II by the late Joe and Mary Grogan, has survived various changes in the holiday industry and particularly when it came to computerisation when the public can now simply book online for their getaway break.

But Managing Director Frances Grogan told the Connacht Tribune that there were very good times for the industry and extremely challenging ones as well.

“But we provide a loyal and informative service for our customers and there are many who just appreciate a one-to-one experience when booking a holiday,” she said.

Frances is the aunt of Shane Grogan who has been left with a serious brain injury following an incident that occurred in Tuam after he attended the Galway Races five years ago.

Frances Grogan was devastated by what happened as herself and her brother Joe, Shane’s dad, have a very close relationship as a family.

But as life carried on, Frances continued to operate the business which employs seven full time staff and still provides customers which a whole variety of destinations as well as accommodating the corporate sector as well.

However, it all goes back to their parents who found a niche in the market. They owned a grocery shop in Tuam along with a pub in the back, an undertaker service (still operated by Joe), as well as supplying fertilisers to the farming community.

When there was massive emigration during the ‘fifties and ‘sixties the Grogan’s got involved in sourcing travel tickets for those who wanted a better life in America and the business just grew from there. “They made contact with the cruise liners and the air service at the time that was eventually to become Aer Lingus,” Frances explained.

“I remember my mother sorting airline tickets for those who wanted to emigrate and my father passing a glass of whiskey through the hatch to those who were leaving as if it was like a goodbye gesture. As we also had a shop, they would buy the rashers and sausages to bring with them on their travels,” she added.

She knew the challenges she faced with more and more people booking their holidays online but she never lost focus of the service she provided.

“We have our regular customers who trust our staff with regard to the experience they have when it comes to recommending foreign tourist destinations but we are getting the younger couples who want advice on where to spend their first holiday together. Our experience is invaluable,” Frances said.