James William Nicholson “Jimmy” Hoseason OBE (6 November 1927 – 7 November 2009) started out with a small Suffolk-based business and turned it into an international holiday firm, becoming an icon of the British tourist industry in the process.
The Hoseason business was started in 1944 when James’ father, Wally, took over a small boatyard at Oulton Broad. Instead of buying the boats he rented out, Wally acted as an agent for their owners, a principle later adhered to by his son. James, or Jimmy as he preferred to be known, worked a short while in London for McAlpine until 1949, when he returned to Lowestoft to help his ailing father run the boatyard. A year later, his father died, and Jimmy took on the running of the company. After initially considering selling it, he decided that his local knowledge could make the business a success over Blakes, its large, London-based rival.
Over the years, Jimmy expanded the business to include not only motor cruisers, but holiday cottages and parks, and he also made sure cruisers were modernised and fitted with home comforts. The business was the first to introduce direct telephone bookings, and customers were greeted by cheerful telephonists and receptionists. Jimmy was known for being good-natured and brought a personal touch that endeared him to customers, contributing to his ongoing success during difficult years for other holiday firms. By the time Jimmy retired in 1999, the company employed 10,000 staff across 100 boatyards and holiday parks and sold more than £100m worth of holidays to in excess of one million customers of a year.
When Jimmy retired, he sold the company for £22m in a management buy-out, and spent his time in his other passion of flying. He was awarded an OBE in 1990.
James Hoseasons was honoured by the British Travel & Hospitality Hall of Fame in 1997.