2013 marks Leger’s 30th year of operating escorted coach holidays throughout Europe, so it’s a very special year. Ian Henry, Leger’s Managing Director, has been with the company for more than 20 years. Here he tells us the Leger story…
Firstly, I’d like to thank everyone who has travelled with us since 1983, and to those of you who haven’t yet enjoyed a Leger holiday, I hope you’ll join us in this milestone year. It’s hard to believe that the 30 years have gone so fast, but great to know that Leger continues to attract thousands of holiday makers each year – some customers that have been with us from the very beginning. Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned Leger traveller, I look forward to welcoming you aboard in 2013.
How did Leger Holidays begin?
Leger was started by my father, Alan Henry whilst I was at University. He had the idea of running coach tours to Austria and needed to be able to offer customers the security of being ABTA bonded, meaning all customers’ money would be protected. The quickest way to do this was to acquire a company which already had an ABTA Licence. That company was a small travel agent with shops in Wakefield and Doncaster called Leger Travel.
Where did the name ‘Leger’ come from?
Horse racing fans will know that Doncaster is home to the St. Leger Horse Race. Within Doncaster many places are linked with the name ‘Leger’. There are roads and even the local public bus company with the name Leger. I guess the original owners of the travel agencies named the company Leger for that reason.
How many people worked for Leger in the beginning?
In the beginning it was just my dad and mum, plus some part time work from me and a little bit of help from the travel agency staff. As I said, the business was started whilst I was away at University and, in fact, the company’s first office was my bedroom, which was transformed whilst I was away with a couple of desks, telephones and even a telex. Not many students found they’d been evicted when they got home at the end of the first term!
What was the first tour that Leger ran?
The first tours were 6 and 7-day holidays to the Austrian Tyrol. The ferry crossings we used to use were overnight from Felixstowe to Ostend and we even used Belgian coaches, as in those days standards of coaches were higher in Europe than they were in England. Also, getting to Dover used to be a lot more difficult than it is now as this was before the days of the M25, so, as much as we complain now about traffic, getting through the outskirts of London was even harder then.
When did you become involved in the business?
In the early days I helped out during my University holidays, but I joined properly on 28 February 1989. Sadly my dad died suddenly in 1993, so I’ve been running the business ever since.
How has the company changed during the last 30 years?
Well, to start with its much bigger. Today we offer more than 180 different holiday itineraries throughout Europe and even the World. However, apart from 30 years of constantly striving to do things better, I think we still retain much of the original philosophy of what my father started: offering good value, well planned holidays to interesting and exciting destinations. The other major change has been the innovation of our Silver Service coaches. We recognise that the comfort of the coach part of our holidays is very important and so, 10 years ago, we introduced our Silver Service coaches for the first time, not really knowing whether we were doing the right thing. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and today we have 28 Silver Service coaches.
What is your all-time favourite Leger tour and why?
It’s hard to pick one tour specifically as different tours mean different things for different reasons. On the one hand I’m very proud of our Battlefield tours and I think the emotion anybody experiences on the tours of Ypres and the Somme are difficult to express. I’m also proud of how we brought some new destinations within the reach of our customers, in particular our Rome, Pompeii and Capri tour, where we ‘discovered’ a spa town in southern Italy that offered a great location for touring Rome and its surroundings but at a very affordable price. We’ve been going there now for over 20 years. If I was forced to pick one tour, then for now it would be back to our roots, the Austrian Tyrol. I love the beauty of the scenery, the food and the hospitality of the people.