There are probably very few upmarket operators in the UK holding interviews this week in search of new team members.
And of those who are I am willing to bet only one has already employed eight new members of staff in the past couple of months – If Only.
When Brendan Maguire founded the business 10 years ago it was just him – now there are 50 people and counting.
Mauritius was its first destination and the most recent addition is Bali.
In the decade between plenty of others have been added with the likes of Dubai, Maldives, Seychelles, Thailand and Sri Lanka in the portfolio.
Maguire is aware that his baby is bucking the trend and with 95% of his business coming through the trade its clear who he has to thank for it.
“There are some excellent agencies out there and we really enjoy working with them.
“The good ones are surviving and we will support them in any way we can.”
In the next couple of months a hefty investment will appear in the form of a dedicated agents website that will keep the trade up to date on everything
If Only related such as events, educational and incentives and give them the chance to print out or email offers to their clients.
And while some competitors have reduced their on the road team his is expanding – a sixth has recently joined to take on the south west of England.
So what is the secret?
“The expertise of the staff here is second to none,” he said.
“I was walking past a staff member on the phone to an agent the other day and having ascertained that the client was a pool person revealed that the particular hotel being discussed didn’t get sun on the pool in the afternoon.
“Knowledge like that is priceless and all the staff have it.”
Maguire is a strong believer in sending his people away, in fact six staff members went on one trip together recently.
He would rather spend his money on supporting the trade and his staff than big consumer advertising campaigns.
This is not to say he is frivolous with the company’s money, a recent move should help reduce costs – two year brochures.
He explained: “The cost of sending out 300,000 coffee table standard brochures is vast and naturally they can be out of date by the time they come to print.
“When you have a website that can be kept constantly up to the minute it makes sense to move to less frequent brochures with lead in prices – this will be a trend we see more of in the future.”
The operator recently created a dedicated Affordable Dubai brochure aimed at helping agents send their clients to top notch hotels at affordable prices while giving various tips on how to save money while there.
Dubai is a strong destination for If Only and Maguire sees this continuing.
“It has become an incredibly popular twin-centre destination with one in two bookings to the emirate consisting of a stop off in Dubai before moving on to somewhere like Mauritius or the Maldives.”
He also revealed Sri Lanka is getting stronger thanks to its relative affordability and mix of beach, culture and wildlife and he intends on doing more business with Silversea as cruise continues to gather momentum.
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