A HIGH-FLYING team of travel agents who have helped customers travel a whopping 10.5 million miles over the last year are celebrating a bumper haul of top awards.

First-class staff at the Hays Travel branch in Oswestry, landed an impressive five accolades – including Shop of the Year and the prestigious Director's Shield for outstanding contribution – at a glittering ceremony hosted annually by Hays Travel North West.

The awards are organised by Hays Travel North West managing director Don Bircham to celebrate the achievements of his more than 200-strong team.

Over the last 12 months, the team of eight at the branch in Cross Street looked after travel bookings for around 3,500 passengers on an incredible total of 10.5m miles – that’s the equivalent of travelling around the world more than 420 times.

As well as being named Shop of the Year, the branch was also victorious with assistant manager Gary Smout winning the Director's Award. They also took home the Insurance, Ancillaries and Charity awards and several other members of the team were mentioned as some of the firm’s highest flyers.

A delighted Sally Jones, who has been Hays Travel Oswestry branch manager for nearly 10 years, said: “We were delighted last year when the branch won the Director's Award because it’s the one Don picks, but this year we really wanted to stand out and try to get the Shop of the Year. So to win so many is just fantastic. We’re all made up – it’s been a real team effort. Don praised us on the night for our team spirit and the fact we consistently hit every mark.

“Our customer service has a lot to do with our success. Not only are the staff really good but they’re also determined to find the right holiday for people. It’s not a bog standard service, we go above and beyond. We have a lot of customers who are still with us since we opened in 2003.

“People like us recommending places. We’ve got nearly 50 years of travel expertise in the team. We’ve got staff who have strengths in cruises, long haul, short haul and city breaks. That first-hand knowledge is crucial.”

She added: “I was really pleased for Gary because he’s such a great support to me. He’s won the Foreign Exchange award a couple of times and he really deserves this recognition.

“It was also nice to win the Charity award after two of our staff did a sponsored skydive.

“It was a fabulous night at the awards ceremony. We all went down and were well looked after. It’s also our Christmas party so to win all those awards was just the cherry on the top.”

Gary Smout, who has worked at the Oswestry branch for nearly eight years, says he was stunned to win the accolade handpicked by Don.

The 37-year-old said: “It was a big shock! I really didn’t expect it. There was a build up about what the person does and their achievements and I thought hang on, that sounds like me!

“I was chuffed when I heard my name. It’s nice to have that recognition but I wouldn’t have been able to have done it without the rest of the team.

“They even said that on the night that we’re a really close team with a close bond.

“In terms of customer service we do all go that extra mile and the customers appreciate that. You get to know them and what they want out of a holiday.

“You can tell them they won’t like a certain place because you’ve had experience of it and they often like to come in and know that you’ve been there before they book.

“It’s an important part of the job travelling to new places. I’ve done Singapore and Bali this year and will go to Canada next year for the first time.

“I’ve had experience of cruises and I also enjoy a city break in Barcelona. Travelling is all I spend my money on!”

Don said: “I’d like to congratulate the team at our Oswestry branch on winning a staggering five awards and also Gary who won my Director's Award on the night.

“They have enjoyed a brilliant year thanks to their great team spirit and desire to go the extra mile for their customers. The awards are richly deserved.”