Jennie talks to Ted Wake, Joint Managing Director of Kirker Holidays.
I recognise passion when I see it, and Ted Wake has passion, and soul too I imagine. He joined Kirker Holidays in July 1987, and has stayed there ever since. And this is the passion, creating an exceptional experience for travellers, many of whom are over 60, celebrating a variety of very special occasions. This is most certainly the place I shall be directing my wonderful partner to for my next big birthday. Like many Kirker clients, my partner and I certainly suffer from what Ted describes as ‘Internet Fatigue’ – it is very refreshing to be able to speak to a human being to discuss our holiday requirements, and much quicker and more relaxing than spending hours searching on websites!
Ted initially went to Kirker to help out for a couple of weeks, becoming the third member of staff; twenty five years later, they have a team of forty six. Their success comes from a ‘can do’ attitude, multi-tasking and the great relationships they have established with unique, very special hotels and restaurants abroad. Unique and special does not always equal expensive Ted assures me, though it can, if that is what the client wants. A glorious pensione might be the perfect, intimate place to stay on certain occasions. You will be helped to discover just what it is that you truly desire, through careful consultation with Kirker’s staff, who tease out exactly what will make the best possible experience. Ted believes that if you ask the right questions, listen to the client and make some reasonable observations, then all, so to speak, will be revealed. For a moment, I sense a flicker of magic.
Which is precisely what you do not get when trawling for hours through the internet – too much information, more likely irritation, frustration and no satisfaction. Ted knows that his clients, generally well travelled, discerning folk, could put together their own holidays. And thus the exceptional customer service Kirker provides has to go the extra mile and more. He feels the company offers a true lifestyle consultancy: everything is taken care of, so you, the traveller, can relax. You are encouraged to use the concierge service: booking theatres, operas or timed art gallery tickets are arranged well in advance, along with drivers and guides. The idea of a private walking tour of say, Florence, on the first morning of a visit, in order to get your bearings, makes complete sense to me, obvious and thoughtful.
I really love the idea of seeing Aida at La Scala on 14th February, opening night incidentally, best seats in the house for a 70th birthday. That’s got to be worth waiting for! Or upstaging Michael Winner for a table downstairs at Harry’s Bar in Venice, despite the restaurant’s prevarications. Kirker magic prevails. There are also small group escorted cultural tours available, with an expert lecturer, involving opera and art. Although my current favourite has to be the tour to Uzbekistan, a place unlike any other I suspect. Or there is a music festival on the Italian island of Ischia, where guests enjoy glorious concerts, whilst living beside the musicians in the hotel. What a marvellous way to really understand the musical mind.
Ted’s own holidays? Well, North Uist in the Outer Hebrides every summer with his family. Not much art or culture there I suggest, and Ted agrees, however the open spaces, wide beaches and daily picnics are a worthy, welcome contrast to life in London. And then he confesses, each year his family pick a new city to explore too, ensuring that Kirker knowledge is based on personal knowledge.
Passion, a little fairy dust and a true commitment to creating your most excellent holiday experience – Ted Wake, the magician at Kirker, we Silver Travellers salute you.