The former Travel Weekly sales manager opened a travel store in the affluent Dorset town last month. Sam Mayling hears about her ‘old-fashioned’ agency with some forward-thinking ideas.
Q. What is your background in travel?
A. At college in Guildford, I studied for a certificate in travel studies. I worked for Pickfords as a travel agent and rose to become a shop manager. When it was taken over by Airtours, it became part of Going Places. We had to do more directional selling, but I didn’t want to do that. I worked for the ad sales team at Travel Weekly and was then poached by the Mail on Sunday. I gave up work when I had twin girls eight years ago, as I wanted part-time hours to fit around them.
Q. Why did you set up a travel agency?
A. We moved to the area about a year ago. I’d been thinking about homeworking but my husband Gary saw the shop in the village of Beaminster, so I thought I could go back to running an ‘old-fashioned’ agency. The name comes from a yacht that I have been lucky enough to sail on in the Mediterranean.
Q. How did you launch?
A. I sent 200 invitations to people in the village. About 35 responded and we had an evening of canapes and fizz. It was featured in the local paper.
Q. What was your first booking?
A. The first customers who came in from the street are going on holiday at the end of January, on a 17-night, two-centre trip to Thailand. The customer said he was fed up booking himself on the internet – and there are no other travel agents around here.
Q. What is your business model?
A. I call it a travel lounge, to show it is different from other agencies. There are no brochure racks – most information is online now. The shop has pictures of us on trips, souvenirs, an old-style map, plus tables and chairs. The local market is mostly older, affluent people, and we offer coffee, tea or wine while we talk. People can come in for a consultation, or I can arrange to meet them at their home, if they live in an outlying village. The initial consultation is part of the enjoyment and should form part of the relationship we build with our clients. I fit it around school runs and holidays – if it’s busy, I can work in the evenings. My passion is travel and finding the right holidays for people.
Q. What other services can you offer?
A. I make recommendations for services such as kennels, gardeners, car parking and airport hotels, so my customers don’t have to worry about a thing while they are away. It’s an area in which there are lots of horse owners, for example, so I know an agency that can look after horses.
Q. Why did you join the Travel Trust Association?
A. I got in touch with them and they were very professional and supportive. They helped with aspects such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation.
Q. What marketing do you do?
A. I advertise in local magazines and use Facebook. My first event will be afternoon tea at a local hotel in February, and I am inviting a tour operator to talk about Italy. There are no offers in the shop window, but there are retro posters, which attract attention as people walk past.
Jane’s sales tips
People buy people: You need to connect with people if you want to build a client base.
Believe to achieve: Have faith in what you sell and know where to find the information you need.
Understand your client: You have two ears and only one mouth, so listen to your customers.
1985-86 Guildford Technical College
1986-98 Pickfords Travel
1998-2004 Sales manager, Travel Weekly
2004-10 Advertising sales manager, Mail on Sunday
2014-18 Director, Private Jet Tours
December 2018 Established Beyond Capricorn
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