A TRAVEL agent who closed down his high-street shop to
concentrate on web-only business has increased his annual turnover
from £1 million to £30 million.

ABTA Convention delegates will hear on Sunday how Nick Rowley
bought a Worldchoice shop four years ago and closed it down 18
months later to set up on the web, focusing entirely on selling
ferry product. The 32-year-old’s business will bring in
£2 million profit this year – 20 times the profit he
achieved when he ran Midlands Travel, near Abingdon,
Oxfordshire.

Rowley will join a panel discussion at the ABTA Convention
entitled ‘12 Ideas You Can Implement Next Week’, which
will see former Specialist Holidays Group managing director and
Libra Holidays interim MD Kevin Ivie tell agents they need to
consider the broader picture if they want to survive.

Ivie, who is now an industry consultant, said: “Nick is just one
example of someone who has decided to take up a different business
model.

“I’m not saying every agent should do it, but
customers’ booking patterns are changing and agents need to
understand that for their business to survive, they may have to
think outside the box.”

Rowley said: “The shop I ran was a typical independent,
ABTA-bonded travel agency that had been around since 1972. It did
nothing more than retailing – selling brochure product for
the main companies.

“We decided to close our door to casual callers in the mornings,
taking appointments only. Even though the amount of people coming
into the shop dropped considerably, it didn’t make any
difference to the revenue we took. But it did free up
one-and-a-half people to start thinking about developing another
part of the business.” He added: “We had spotted a rising demand
for ferry bookings but the only real opportunity to expand outside
our catchment area was through the web.”

The company, The Travel Gateway, is now the largest real-time
ferry distribution company in the world. Earlier this year its
website, aferry.to, won the Agent Achievement Award for best
bookable travel website.

Rowley, who is business development and group sales director for
The Travel Gateway, said: “Agents have got to look away from
traditional revenue streams like the airlines. Sexy isn’t
always where the money is.”

Also taking part in the panel discussion, which starts at
10.45am on Sunday, are Knock Travel owner Doreen McKenzie, American
Society of Travel Agents president Kathy Sudeikis and Hays Travel
MD John Hays.