UCLan graduate named top entrepreneur at travel industry awards

Posted on - 20th October, 2021 - 11:05am | Author - | Posted in - Business, Leyland, Preston News, South Ribble Locations, South Ribble News, UCLan
James Cole at the Travel Industry Awards by TTG 2021. Pic: Steve Dunlop

A UCLan graduate was last month named top entrepreneur at a travel industry awards.


James Cole, a UCLan Honorary Fellow and former Runshaw College in Leyland student, received the John Hays Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the new Travel Industry Awards by Travel Trade Gazette (TTG) on 30 September.

James, founder and managing director of Lancashire-based Panache Cruises, is the first recipient of the trophy and was witnessed collecting the award by over 1,000 senior industry executives.

He launched Panache Cruises in July 2020 after using the first lockdown to develop a business plan. In its first year of trading, the business generated more than £3 million, despite an international travel ban in place.

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The Travel Industry Awards by TTG 2021. Pic Steve Dunlop

His ambition is for Panache Cruises to become the UK’s leading retailer of luxury cruises by 2027.

Cole said: “After being in the industry for the past 23 years, accepting this award was one of the biggest moments in my life and something I will cherish always.

“Launching Panache Cruises was always about the long-term, not just the short-term trading conditions. The market is now returning, and I am building a strong, responsive and loyal customer base. The Panache team have been truly exemplary.

“It’s been a hard but rewarding 18 months, and I feel truly privileged and honoured to have been given this highly prestigious award in the memory of one of the UK travel industry’s greatest and most respected businessmen.

“My sincere thanks go to TTG, Dame Irene Hays and the wider Hays family for choosing me to have this very special award.”

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The category was introduced in tribute to John Hays, founder of Hays Travel, who passed away in 2020. It recognises the entrepreneurial spirit of an outstanding business owner who has disrupted the travel sector.

John’s wife, Dame Irene Hays and daughter, Helen Hays, joined the TTG senior editorial team to judge the submissions and choose a winner.

The judges said: “This was a highly competitive category, with many strong submissions, but James’ entrepreneurial flair and laser-focus were outstanding.

“His new business idea, which against all odds, was able to launch during the height of the pandemic has already established a fantastic base for future trading.”

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The Travel Industry Awards by TTG took place at Magazine London beside the O2 arena, co-hosted by Strictly Come Dancing’s Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly.

TTG editor Sophie Griffiths added: “The awards celebrate travel companies and professionals who put customers at the heart of their business, who are most deserving of consumers’ trust, and who have responded to the challenges of the last 12 months by making positive changes to their products, services and corporate cultures.”

“With a robust process of judging panels, the Travel Industry Awards by TTG are the toughest to win in the travel sector, and any company which takes home a trophy on the night can be incredibly proud of their achievement”.

Panache Cruises has recently moved to its new business premises, based in Strawberry Fields Digital Hub in Chorley.

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