Paul Salisbury left an industry he knew to set up Guru Travel from his home in Lichfield. Three years later it is predicted to turnover £2.5 million and has joined The Advantage Travel Partnership as a managed service agency. Juliet Dennis reports.

Q. Why did you become a travel agent?
A. I was sick of terrible experiences in travel! I thought if I could set up an online business but offer the same service you get in a shop then I could make a success of it. For people who lack time but have the money I thought it could be a winning combination. Before, I ran a £14 million wholesale business in the food and drink industry, importing Polish food for Tesco. I wasn’t sure whether to stick with something I knew or go for something I loved. I started trading in July 2016, it was just me. Now there are four of us.

Q. You left Not Just Travel to become an Advantage managed service agency in December 2018. Why?
A. In the first 12 months as a Not Just Travel member we went to number one in terms of sales. Our first year’s turnover was £1.1 million. The second year finished at £1.8 million and this year we’re on track to hit £2.5 million. Our average per person booking is £2,700: our biggest booking to date is £140,000. We left Not Just Travel because we outgrew them [financially] – they take too big a cut to justify us staying. For us,  Advantage Managed Services has lots of benefits. Advantage does the accounts and pays the bills; it takes away the stress.

Q. What is the key to your success?
A. We are good at recycling deals. If we get a good deal we really promote it and get 30 bookings for the same package. We class ourselves as long-haul luxury. Our Facebook page is big for us; we have almost 30,000 likes. We don’t waste time pricing with lots of suppliers; if you get back to clients straight away with a price they might just book it. My partner, Emily Preece, joined the business in May 2017. She became the fastest person to qualify for Sandals’ Chairman’s Royal Club, for which you have to do in excess of £500,000 worth of sales. Sandals is a big part of our business; we did 270 bookings last year. We’ve visited all 19 properties. We are good at selling something we’ve been to. We tell clients what it’s like. We don’t sugarcoat it.

Q. What is the most challenging part of your business?
A. The hardest part is constantly being on top of the changes in the travel industry. For example, Thomas Cook’s decision to stop price parity in December. We did £500,000 worth of bookings with Cook last year. This year we’ve done £11,000. We are trying to replace that business with different suppliers.

Q. Is a move to the high street on the cards?
A. I would like a boutique shop in a little village as a base where we could have six to 10 staff. There are two spots locally I have my eye on; ideally we will get a shop next year.

Paul’s sales tips

  • Be prepared to work hard. I’d rather work hard for 10 years so I can take it easier later in life!
  • Be available for clients when they need you, whether it’s 7am or 10pm
  • Never be afraid to price a holiday based on your service – don’t feel you need to offer the cheapest price