PROUD bosses and staff at Bolton firm Travel Counsellors received royal approval of their outstanding performance when they received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise.

Founder and chairman David Speakman received the award — in the international category — from the Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester, Mr Warren J Smith, at Travel Counsellors’ headquarters in Churchgate yesterday.

Mr Speakman, managing director Steve Byrne, plus 220 Bolton-based staff, 120 abroad and 1,300 franchisees based in eight different countries, were commended by Mr Smith on behalf of the Queen for being among just 110 UK companies and 12 in the North West to receive the award.

Mr Smith said: “It is the only award for a travel agency. It is recognition of sound management, good communication and excellent team work.

“It is the most prestigious award for business performance. The advisory committee who select the winners is made up of representatives of industry, trade unions and the Government.

“It is a pleasure to present the award on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen and pass on her good wishes for the future.”

It is the second Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Travel Counsellors, who received the accolade in the innovation category in 2003.

Award-winning chef Debbie Halls Evans — winner of Channel 4’s The Taste — laid on catering for the presentation event.

The firm now operates in seven countries, in addition to the UK, and overseas business represents 28 per cent of its total business.

Tyldesley born and bred and former quantity surveyor Mr Speakman, aged 67, launched Travel Counsellors in Atherton in 1994, but the firm expanded quickly and moved the company to the former Atherton Job Centre in 1997.

In 1999, Travel Counsellors moved its 29 staff to its current headquarters in the former Bolton Health Authority building.

The firm initially occupied only two floors, but it now uses all six floors of the building.

Travel Counsellors is currently spending up to £1 million a year on technology. Mr Speakman, a former director and lifelong fan of Bolton Wanderers, lives in southern Spain but returns to Bolton several days a month.

He said: “As an entrepreneur, you never turn off. It’s your life. We travel to conferences in different countries and communicate via video link.

“Business is up 15 per cent this year and we are outpacing our rivals because there are many customers who value the service we offer.”

Mr Speakman will travel to Buckingham Palace in November to be presented to the Queen.