A year after its travel industry was decimated by Covid, Hale village has a new travel agency

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A new travel agency has opened in Hale village, a year after the Covid-19 pandemic forced two other firms to close after years on the high street.

Black Opal Travel Group has opened on Ashley Road in the unit previously occupied by Gateway Gallery.

Established in 2019, Black Opal had only been trading for just over a year when the travel industry hit perhaps the toughest period it’s ever been through.

The sudden loss of business caused by the coronavirus lockdown led to the demise of Omega Travel after 40 years in the village, with directors citing an “untenable” future.

The Black Opal team (from left): Keri Gee, Kathryn Morris, Jamie Smith, Louise Vernon and Alex Taylor

And Prestbury Travel also decided to close its Hale branch.

But Black Opal said it actually managed to grow its team over the last year, and this month opened its new base.

“Being a small, family-owned business meant that we could be more resilient and adaptable during lockdown,” said managing director and owner, Jamie Smith.

“With the world tentatively opening up again, we’re in great shape to work with new clients, our new home in Hale is a big part of that.

“We know the pandemic has been hard on Hale high street, and there has traditionally been a presence of luxury travel agents in the area for many years, so moving here felt like a no-brainer!”

Black Opal MD and owner Jamie Smith

Three of the five-person team at Black Opal have joined in the last 12 months, including Senior Travel Consultants Keri Gee and Louise Vernon, who joined from Omega.

“They both have a wealth of knowledge and experience, having worked locally in the sector for years. No doubt they will be familiar faces to some locals,” said Smith.

Black Opal offers a range of tailored luxury travel experiences, catering for everything from indulgent beach holidays to bespoke sport tours.

The sports tours are often based around international tournaments with travellers accompanied by sporting greats, including the likes of Scott Hastings, David Gower and Gladstone Small. Current England batsman Zak Crawley is also a Brand Ambassador for the group.

“We are a one-stop shop for all things luxury travel,” Smith added.

“We also used the time to secure our ATOL and ABTA statuses directly so we can offer clients the utmost security. We can’t wait to start connecting in person once again, and welcome local residents to pop in and say hello.”

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