Chief Business Development Officer (Deputy CEO) - Photo
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Simon Hagger

Chief Business Development Officer (Deputy CEO)

I've been at Holiday Extras for over 20 years but feel like I've had 10 different careers! An amazing journey and opportunity to reinvent the business and myself - to learn, work hard and have fun along the way.

I guess you could say the Holiday Extras entrepreneurial spirit captured my imagination from the start. I joined in 1996 as the first ever 'graduate trainee', back then we were a close knit team of just 30 plus a small telephone based reservations centre. We used faxes, ViewData and printed an annual travel agent brochure! WOW it's changed... for the better :)

My training plan was basically...up to me... and involved getting out into the business, following the Directors around and learning how it all worked - this led to senior roles in creating new products and leading the commercial team, operations troubleshooting, contact centre management, insurance ops and ultimately to a New Business Director role where I was given the free rein and backing to test and launch our Shortbreaks business in 2004. In 2005, I was part of the MBO team.

Shortbreaks is now a thriving division with a dedicated team of 150, it's own MD offices, TTV on the way to £100m p/a and a key part of the Holiday Extras Group. It's a great privilege to partner so closely with some of the largest theme parks and attractions in the UK.

Here's the pic of when we moved the Shortbreaks team into Apple Barn, with Gerry, Carol and Matthew Pack (June, 2015).

On occasion we even mix with royalty!........OK, it's an event at Madame Tussauds with our close partner Merlin Entertainments.

In 2014, I stepped up to the Group Board and in 2015 took on the role of Deputy Group CEO working alongside Matthew Pack on the wider Group mission of making travel easier, less hassle and more fun. I've loved the variety, the chance to devise and deliver strategy, to work on key acquisitions, to further build the product portfolio and to help lead the overall transformation from travel to a tech and customer business. Being on the Group board was another fast track learning opportunity working with the Pack family and our experienced team of NEDS.

Life before Holiday Extras

The rest of my family were either in the building trade or the army, I considered both seriously including a year working on the building site in the family building firm (that toughened me up!). I also flirted with the idea of a career in fitness and gained my qualifications in Personal Training and Fitness Instruction in Australia.

A degree in Geography from the University of London inspired the idea of working in travel, where I initially returned to Folkestone and joined SAGA Holidays. From there I heard of this small up and coming business in travel called Holiday Extras, the moment I walked through the door I knew it was the place for me!

Real life

I never take for granted how lucky I am to live just 10 minutes from the office (okay 12 mins with traffic!), we moved from the countryside to Hythe beach 4 years ago and can hear the sea from the garden - a great chill out after a busy day at the office. The house was a bit of a wreck so it's been a renovation mission but rewarding at the same time.

In the garden we installed a wood fired pizza oven, which makes for makes for some great social occasions.

Married to the very energetic Louise for 18 years who is a fitness instructor teaching classes locally and even a Bootcamp right on Hythe beach!

We have two daughters, Bethany 12 and Aimee 10. They keep us very busy with gymnastics, ballet, street dance, piano lessons, cross country etc! They are definitely my pride and joy!

Breakfast in Sydney, (Dec, 2017).

I like to keep fit but this is more about variety than intensity these days, enjoying a mixture of gym, swimming, yoga, skiing, walking our dogs and a new found love for stand up paddleboarding.

A sunset paddle in Hythe, (August, 2017).

When I get time, I like to experiment with photography......very occasionally I manage to capture a really special family moment - this is a favourite from a few years ago!

As the girls get older we are getting more confident with our travel and holidays and recently took a 4 week Christmas trip "down under" - sightseeing in Singapore, surfing and campervan adventures in Australia and adrenalin activities in New Zealand. It's great to share these experiences with the family.

Manly Beach, Sydney (Dec, 2017).

Rafting on the Ragitata River, South Island New Zealand

I'm a governor at my daughter's primary school, which despite the effort (and challenge of finding the time!), is incredibly rewarding to be able to help local children maximise their education and potential.

The Future

Whilst I may not still be here in another 20 years, the mission for the next 5+ years at Holiday Extras really excites me! Delivering all of our customers with ... "less hassle, more holiday" ... is a great call to arms and I expect to focus on delivering the strategy and value across the group, we have more momentum than ever, in fact there is so much potential we must pick the opportunities very carefully.

I love working with the HX team, we continue to have the freedom to create our own destiny, plus a few good parties now and then!

Our last HX party... Circus theme (Sep, 2017).

Whatever happens I know it's going to be a thrilling ride!

Personally, more travel adventures with the family, seeing if I can stand up for more than 5 seconds on a surfboard and I aim to get fit enough to survive a trip to swim between some Greek islands.