- Jimmy trained as a civil and structural engineer, and was also the driving force behind the holiday boat business, Hoseasons, as his father was no businessman. He hadn't really got financially established in engineering when his father died, and had to give it up to go home to take over his father's affairs. He is a most astute businessman, and became extremely wealthy. James also wrote a book about the American bombers during World War II, called "The Thousand Day War". Jimmy has never officially adopted Jonathan and Julian, but they have changed their surname to Hoseason. Jimmy lives in
- From a small business based in Oulton Broad, Suffolk, and engaged in hiring out cabin cruisers for those who wanted to cruise the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, James Hoseason, who has died aged 82, developed an international holiday firm. In the eyes of those who worked with him, or of those who dealt with him, he was an icon of the British tourist industry, who conjured up respect, affection, and not a little admiration, for making Hoseason and the Broads into names known throughout the world. Rigidly determined that would-be holidaymakers must be impressed from their very first contact with his boats, apartment parks and cottages, he was fanatical about staff training at all levels.
The Hoseason business was started by James's father, Wally, in 1944, a shrewdly chosen year. During the preceding five years of the second world war, Broads near the sea, especially Oulton Broad, had been closed to the public and protected against possible German invasion by barbed wire and mines. Private cabin cruiser owners took their boats 10 miles up the River Waveney to comparatively safe Beccles, and spent their weekends there, out of the danger area of heavily bombed Lowestoft.
But by 1944 the danger of invasion was past, and private boat owners were gradually drifting back to Oulton Broad. Wally judged that others might also like to taste the freedom of the Broads, and that the time was right to give them the opportunity. He took over a small boatyard at Oulton Broad. He did not commit himself to buying the boats he rented out, but acted as agent for their owners – a principle followed later by his son.
Born in South Cove, near Southwold, James Hoseason was brought up in Lowestoft, where his father was harbour- master, and attended Lowestoft grammar school. He left school at 18 and became a maths lecturer at a local college, at the same time attending night school to study engineering. When he was in a job in London with the construction company McAlpine, he lodged at the YMCA on Tottenham Court Road, but went back to Lowestoft in 1949, after his father had been diagnosed with tuberculosis, to help him run the boatyard.
In the year after Wally founded the business, a modest 200 customers hired boats through Hoseasons, and when his father died in 1950, his son at first thought of selling the business. But on consideration he decided that Blakes, the firm that dominated the market, were vulnerable, because they operated from London, and that his local knowledge might give him an advantage; he determined to keep the business, and to make it grow.
Those who worked for him soon detected what were to be the chief elements in running the business – Hoseason's characteristically East Anglian habit of not being overly impressed by himself or anyone else. Everyone was encouraged to call him Jimmy, but he was ruthless about carelessness, slackness or any other want of concern for the business. To motor cruisers – which had at one point made them the largest dispenser of floating holidays in the world – were eventually added holiday cottages and parks.
At the same time, the standard expected of cruisers was raised. Video recorders, CD players and microwave ovens became the norm, and at least one boat had a four-poster bed installed. He had concluded that women expected comfort and that, more often than not, it was women rather than men who decided on where holidays were taken: his own straw-poll found that the score was seven to three.
Cheerful female telephonists and receptionists became a hallmark of Hoseasons' business, which was the first to introduce direct telephone bookings.
Hoseason had notions of traditional goodwill that escaped the notice of other businessmen: he sent hand-signed Christmas cards to all his customers, for instance. His own essential good nature contributed greatly to his success through the years when many other holiday firms went out of business. The company sold £100m worth of holidays a year, employed 10,000 people on 100 boatyards and holiday parks, and had more than a million customers yearly by the time Hoseason retired in 1999, selling the company for £22m in a management buy-out.
His other passion was flying, which he continued into later life. He co-founded the Waveney Flying Group in 1960 at Seething airfield in Norfolk. He helped to honour the American airmen stationed in East Anglia during the war and to establish the 2nd Air Division memorial library in Norwich, and wrote what was to become the standard work on the subject, The 1,000 Day Battle (1979). He had been a member of the English Tourist Board, a founder member of the Tourist Society and a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.
He was appointed OBE in 1990. He lived in quiet stylishness in a converted vicarage near Beccles, and sometimes joked with self-deprecation that, though he was not rich, he was not poor either.