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Your Stories: Steve Shelley helped set up Love 2 Travel amid rising luxury demand

Steve Shelley and friend Simon Flint are switching industries from finance to travel, Harry Kemble hears how new agency Love 2 Travel is faring

Q. When did Love 2 Travel open its doors?
A. We launched in January to try to meet rising demand for luxury travel as we moved out of the pandemic. I am new to travel, having previously worked in the business development team at a hedge fund. Simon Flint, an old schoolfriend, is the owner. His background is also finance. He still works in banking so this [agency] is part‑time for him, but he’ll probably go full-time soon.

We launched in January to try to meet rising demand for luxury travel as we moved out of the pandemic

Q. Why did Simon decide to set up the business?
A. It’s about providing a service that creates memories for people and they’re giving us money to do that. It’s great to get positive feedback. Even though we saw Thomas Cook go under, we felt travel was a great opportunity. Travel businesses committed to plenty of refunds during the pandemic, but we also saw consolidation and, besides, nothing happens for ever. We have a huge nationwide network of high-net-worth individuals. It was about stepping in and offering them luxury holidays. They are board-level guys, but not all are paying customers at the moment.

It’s about providing a service that creates memories for people and they’re giving us money to do that

Q. How have the first few months been?
A. It has been busy trying to juggle everything and set up the business – the company has done £250,000 worth of bookings so far. We’ve taken on [former England footballer] Jay Bothroyd as a sporting ambassador. He will open us to people in the sporting world who he knows. We sent Jay away to a luxury villa in Quinta do Lago, Portugal, at the end of May. We’re now speaking to individuals that he has recommended to us. We also signed current Blackpool FC and Jamaican football international Kevin Stewart.

We’ve taken on [former England footballer] Jay Bothroyd as a sporting ambassador. He will open us to people in the sporting world who he knows

Q. What growth targets does the business have?
A. Within three years, we want to secure £4 million-worth of bookings per annum. Our first-year target is to get up to £750,000. I am focused on business development. We’ll be recruiting people next year with travel experience. We’re speaking to new ambassadors all the time with the aim of broadening our customer network.

Q. How have you found moving to a new industry?
A. We’ve picked it up quickly and got an idea of the processes. We understand the people we want to deal with. We know what they like and what they don’t. We’re not dealing with people that we do not know at present.

We understand the people we want to deal with. We know what they like and what they don’t

Q. Where did you source your customers from? 
A. They are friends and contacts we had an existing relationship with. Now we’re looking after their travel needs rather than the services we offered them before.

Q. Tell us about the agency’s first booking.
A. The first booking was in February for a couple to go to St Vincent and the Grenadines. We had a short turnaround period. We flew them to Barbados and they stayed for 10 nights at the Mandarin Oriental on Canouan island. Our average booking is about £30,000. For the moment we’re not really focused on low-cost tickets. We’re open to bookings worth £10,000 and below, but we will be selective.

For the moment we’re not really focused on low-cost tickets. We’re open to bookings worth £10,000 and below, but we will be selective

Q. What bookings does Love 2 Travel specialise in?
A. We sell complex, high-value travel. Another thing that is more a selling point is our premium quality service. We’re working on a £200,000 booking for a family at the moment. We’ve done a couple of decent-sized Dubai trips. We also do trips to the Maldives, the Seychelles, Mauritius and Europe. We’ve also got an enquiry for a trip to Doha for the World Cup this winter. We will be securing tickets for him and five family members. It’s the same chap who I booked to go St Vincent and the Grenadines.

We’ve also got an enquiry for a trip to Doha for the World Cup this winter. We will be securing tickets for him and five family members

Q. What’s next for Love 2 Travel?
A. We will be joining Barrhead Travel Group as a Brilliant Travel member. We started out working with Carrier and Elegant Resorts and we’ll keep working with them. But the aim with Barrhead is to broaden our product offering through its range of suppliers.


Love 2 Travel your stories

What do you need to remember when booking holidays for affluent customers?

You must understand these individuals and their families: what kind of room and level of service they like and what they dislike. You might suggest one hotel over another based on whether they are party people or whether they like to relax. It’s all driven from service. These customers are generally very busy and want to be assured things are done promptly.

They must have confidence in you and when they travel you must be on hand. Our customers have our personal contact details so we can be called on a Sunday, say. We don’t have a call centre, but we have a fantastic network. These customers are difficult to build a relationship with. You normally find them through word of mouth. Our customers are very loyal.

Our customers have our personal contact details so we can be called on a Sunday, say. We don’t have a call centre, but we have a fantastic network

Another thing to weigh up is the personal touches. If we know a customer likes a certain champagne, we will order it and add a note thanking them for booking with us. They might have young children who like Peppa Pig or Superman. We will make sure there is something nice in their room. It doesn’t cost much to add personal touches.

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