Travel agent waves goodbye

Invercargill travel agent Ray Muir has retired after 49 years in the industry.
Invercargill travel agent Ray Muir has retired after 49 years in the industry.

One of Invercargill's longest-serving travel agents retired yesterday, after more than 49 years in the business.

Ray Muir, of Ray Muir World Travel, said that while yesterday was officially his last day, he was still telling clients he would be in touch later in the week to confirm their travel plans.

"It's very difficult to say ‘that's it', I'll finish officially today, but I know I'll be back tomorrow," he said.

Mr Muir said he would need a few weeks to tie up loose ends before completely handing the reins over to his staff.

Mr Muir began his career in the travel industry when he was 17 years old, selling tickets at The Union Steam Ship business in the Crescent, Invercargill.

"Mum and Dad told me I had to apply, and luckily I got the job," Mr Muir, now 67, said.

"In those days jobs weren't a problem, I even had a second job at the post office."

Mr Muir's duties at the Union Steam Ship included climbing the ladder to hoist the flag each morning, and selling tickets for the Wahine and Maori vessels that sailed the Cook Strait.

He later worked for Dalgety Travel until 1985, when Mr Muir went out on his own and started Ray Muir World Travel.

"I've never looked back," he said.

The business ran out of his shop in Tay St until several years ago when he moved to Windsor.

Mr Muir said the biggest changes in the travel industry have been automation, with the introduction of long distance flights and bigger planes, and communication, with airlines being able to advertise directly to their customers online.

"In saying that, not everyone has a computer, or the desire to work their way through a complicated itinerary online," he said.

As for best and worst experiences, Mr Muir recalled one of his favourites was a woman who he helped to travel the world.

"She had a medical condition. We managed to get her cleared into every country she wanted to go, until she was on her way home and got stopped in Australia. She was held up there for a number of days.

We thought it would be just as easy as getting her into New Zealand, but it wasn't."

He said there had not been many bad experiences.

"People we've had a problem with you could just about count on one hand," he said.

Mr Muir said he planned to play golf and spend time with his grandchildren in his retirement, but he will not be slowing much.

"I love being outside, there's always plenty to do," he said.

Having celebrated his 67th birthday last week, retirement was his present to himself.

"The older you get, the more people you see around you are falling unwell.

"I'm going to enjoy the rest of my life," he said.

The Southland Times