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Back Lane - “Austria Direct”
and “A & M Travel Organisers”

Austria Direct,

47 Back Lane, Rochford, SS4 1AY

01702 547580

INTERVIEW with John Lewindon of Austria Direct  (22nd December)


John Lewindon, as well as still acting as an accountant, runs the travel firm Austria Direct and also A & M Travel Organisers from 47 Back Lane, a grade II listed building over 200 years old. Unless you went looking on the Internet, if you rarely used Back Lane or the Back Lane Car Park, you might be forgiven for not realising he was there. Hopefully this interview will remedy that situation. John spoke at great length about his experiences over the years and we have sought to summarise and present the key parts of what he shared.



Rochford Life:  John, may we start by asking you to summarise your activities for us please?

John: Well there is AUSTRIA DIRECT where I organise weddings in Austria for couples from all over the world, and my other business known as A & M Travel Organisers, where local people can book day trips and holidays by:

· booking holidays and day trips with Cooks Coaches and Kirbys Coaches,

· booking  holidays with Shearings, Leger Travel, Travelsmith, Crusader Holidays, Alfa Travel, Grand UK Holidays as well as cruises departing from Tilbury. (We are not ABTA members, but work through W.R.Williams (Travel) Ltd of Southchurch, who are full ABTA members.)

· booking National Express coaches through us and tickets are issued on the spot.

· offering a vast rail booking service in conjunction with our colleagues Trainseurope Ltd of March, Cambs who are experts in their field - but we need a minimum of seven days notice to receive the tickets from them!

· organising Sunday evening visits three or four times a year (as an offshoot to A&M) to the famous Players Theatre Music Hall in Villiers Street,(below Charing Cross Station). It was on these shows that the BBC "Good Old Days" was based. We take a coach from here to London departing around 3.00pm arriving in London in time to take the optional pre-show dinner at the theatre or look round Covent Garden, then the 7.30pm performance of "Under the Arches" and  leave London around 10.15pm to be home before midnight. At just £35 per person for the show plus the coach travel, we consider that is a bargain for a show in London.

And of course there is still my accountancy work, and I still get new clients coming in on a monthly basis.

I’m in most mornings by ten o’clock but I aim to leave at three in the afternoon each day, and on Saturdays I’m here from 9.30 to noon, but obviously if something has to take me away, I go, which is why I say to people if you are making a special trip then do telephone beforehand and make sure I’m going to be there.


RL: John, in a recent interview with Ken Massow, he suggested you were possibly the longest standing businessman of central Rochford. Can you go back to when you first arrived here?

John: I first came over to Rochford in any sort of permanent form in 1958 when I was a member of a firm of auditors who looked after one of the major motor repairers in Rochford. I am an accountant by profession. I started in the accountancy business in 1947.


RL: But you don’t do much in accountancy today?

John: Oh no, I’m very much in accounting. I was in practice in the Square from 1962 until I retired in 1998. The idea was that then I would have still have a hobby travel business (which had been running for many years) but still keep on a few accountancy clients who insisted on coming with me when my partners bought me out.


However with the advent of the Internet, the use of people like me for arranging travel rapidly disappeared and the sort of people that I was dealing with for Austria were getting too old to travel, so I went back to my former partners and said, would you have any objection if I started to increase the accountancy practice, bearing in mind the fact that when I had retired I had given up my official qualification as a certified accountant. I had carried on as an unqualified accountant which enabled me to still do all the work that I was once doing for small limited companies. They said we have no objection to you doing that because we’re going to move to Southend anyway, so the travel business once again went on to be the secondary occupation and the accountancy side took over, just because I needed to pay the bills.


RL: So when did the travel side originally come in then?

John: Well we started the Austrian side about 1985. There was an English chap from Bournemouth whose mother was Austrian, who had an apartment house in Seefeld in Austria, and he decided he would like to let out the apartments on a sort of ‘license to use’ basis for a week or weeks of the year for twenty five years for a lump sum of money plus an annual maintenance cost.


I’d been to Seefeld originally in 1955 and we’d been back in 1960 and we went back in 1977.  We were talking about eventually retiring out there and, to cut a long story short, we took one of the largest of these apartments and marketed it from England. Eventually the young man asked us to support his activities when he was in this country and he used part of our offices at Market Square Chambers as his base. We helped him with exhibitions etc. in this country and gradually we became part of his Alpine Timesharing which eventually became Alpine Mediterranean Holidays. Eventually we planned that when I retired at sixty we would go over to Austria and I would look after the accountancy side.


Some time later I formed Austria Direct because I was handling flights and all that sort of thing for all our holiday planners who were going over there. We expanded to getting people accommodation all over Austria. That was about 1989 or 1990, then one day a man walked in telling us that we’d been recommended to him and his daughter wanted to get married in Austria. To cut another long story short we soon found ourselves specialising in making the arrangements for weddings to be carried out in Austria. Originally we did all the planning in conjunction with families, but now I will often simply do the background setting up work while wedding planners, either here or over there, do the bulk of the detailed planning and arrangements.


RL: Thank you very much indeed for that John; that is excellent.




If you check back over the interview you may come to appreciate John’s breadth of experience in Austria and the travel business. The following is a brief recap of his activities over the years:


1955 - first visited Seefeld

1958 - first moved over to Rochford in accountancy business

1977 - after other visits to Austria, became linked to the Apartments

1985 - started to develop the Austrian business more

1990 - formed Austria Direct to cope with the expanding business

1998 - officially ‘retired’ from accountancy, but maintained some accountancy work and travel work.