Bruce Forsyth became an office junior with Union Steam Ship Company straight out of college and has been associated with travel one way or the other since – but most notably has (with wife Jan) owned Silversteam Cruise & Holiday Centre for the past 25 years. ‘Sometimes people can feel nervous about booking, so we have always aimed to put them at ease and we want it to be fun.’ Forsyth says he has valued the relationships gained with both colleagues and customers over the years and credits the suburban location in Upper Hutt as part of the reason.
‘They are fantastic, loyal and supportive customers and we have had a number of cases where people who live in the area have recommended us to people from further away. The community is still supportive – they know we have the expertise when it comes to longer holidays and cruises.’ Forsyth’s experience spans about five years in the Union Steam Ship Company in head office, Wellington, two and a half years with the company in London, then a return to Union Travel. He worked in Lower Hutt and then as manager of Union Travel Porirua. His employment path traversed Atlantic & Pacific, BNZ Travel, Century 21, Variety Travel and even (‘my stint in airlines’) 12 months with Ansett New Zealand. He and Jan opened Silverstream Holiday Shoppe, as it was then, 25 years ago and says when they celebrated 20 years of business, the theme song was ‘I’m Still Standing’.
But despite sometimes demanding market conditions he feels agents still have reason to be positive about the future. ‘We’ve had people say ‘you’ll never survive’ and sometimes we still hear that. But we say we’ve got the expertise and people are happy to pay for our service and knowledge. We were among the first (agents) to charge service fees.’ He says Silverstream (independent and part of GTN) has always valued TAANZ membership as well. ‘I am a big believer in TAANZ, it makes us bona fide and we don’t have its sign up for nothing.’ The business has been purchased by Scott Wagstaff, who has worked with Silverstream for five years, with other jobs in Hutt Valley and Wellington before that. Forsyth himself is not completely parting ways with the sector – he intends working for cruise ship shore excursion companies in Wellington over the summer months.