Adam Silgram Franks, managing director of LGBTQ+ specialist Sashay Away Travel hopes to build his business by creating a team of people who share his vision. Samantha Mayling reports.
Q. What is your background in travel?
A. Travel runs in my blood, with family members working in leisure and corporate travel. My travel CV started in 2014, working in sales at Virgin Atlantic’s head office in Crawley. I then decided to travel around Europe and, when I returned, I worked as a travel consultant for American Express Global Business Travel in Croydon. I absolutely loved every minute but, after three years, the office closed. I was going through a sticky patch mentally, but this darker time came with a huge silver lining as I came across Travel-PA and my homeworking career kicked off. Homeworking gave me a huge lift.
“I was going through a sticky patch mentally, but this darker time came with a huge silver lining as I came across Travel-PA and my homeworking career kicked off.”
Q. Why did you set up Sashay Away Travel?
A. I’d been a homeworker for a year with Travel-PA, which is based near me in Croydon, selling mainstream holidays. But I wanted to specialise and create a niche, so I took the plunge and set up as a franchisee with them in September 2019. I had the vision from my own experiences as a member of the LGBTQ+ community when travelling. It was always a dream of mine to run my own business and create a work environment for a team of people who share the same drive and passion for LGBTQ+ rights and travel as me. It was only possible by creating a new business and brand, with something that distinguished us from anyone else. The name is a phrase from RuPaul’s Drag Race, so it’s very well known. I designed the logo myself. I’ve been building up a rapport with hotels and I’m trying to sort out a brochure which I can send to clients. Travel-PA’s Hamish Kaumaya [managing director] and Shirley Bell [general manager] really helped build my confidence and encouraged me to grab every opportunity I could. I’ve now joined Global Travel Collection (GTC) to help build the business.
“Thankfully, my overheads are minimal and keeping Sashay Away Travel alive wasn’t as tough as I’d imagined.”
Q. How did you cope with the pandemic?
A. The past year has been a struggle. Any form of financial support from [chancellor] Rishi Sunak slipped through my fingers. Thankfully, my overheads are minimal and keeping Sashay Away Travel alive wasn’t as tough as I’d imagined. I couldn’t have got through the past year if it wasn’t for my amazing husband Lewis and support from Hamish. Last year was a nightmare with cancellations and refunds. In the summer, the market opened up and I had a few bookings, about half the normal level, then it shut again.
Pictured: Adam (right) with husband Lewis
Q. Do you travel much?
A. My last holiday pre-pandemic was my honeymoon – 14 outstanding nights at the Excellence El Carmen in the Dominican Republic. Best holiday ever. I am itching to go away, perhaps later this summer, somewhere hot to get the sangria flowing. I can work while I’m away – I work 24/7.
“My last holiday pre-pandemic was my honeymoon – 14 outstanding nights at the Excellence El Carmen in the Dominican Republic.”
Q. How do you find your customers?
A. A lot of my customers come through word-of-mouth. However, most come through social media. Facebook has been a go-to but Instagram is showing lots of potential. I even printed thousands of flyers and handed them out at Victoria Station. I’m a member of IGLTA [International LGBTQ+ Travel Association] and am listed on [travel website] Gay Welcome. I was quoted in a Telegraph article about the new film Ammonite, starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, about Mary Anning and set in Dorset. The article was headlined ‘Could the Jurassic Coast become Britain’s new gay getaway after Ammonite release?’ I told them I had received a 25% increase in enquiries about the Dorset coast.
“I am currently working from home but GTC has office space I can use in London. My five-year plan is to have people working with me and be office-based.”
Q. What are your ambitions?
A. GTC opens new avenues for products and services that I can offer my clients. They have very good rates. They have a great team of people who are there to support me. Andy Hampshaw, revenue development senior manager at GTC, is my mentor and business advisor. It also means I get to use Sabre again, which is great. I am currently working from home but GTC has office space I can use in London. My five-year plan is to have people working with me and be office-based.
What sort of bookings do you take?
My first booking was a trip to New York for a proposal. The customer is now my best client and close friend. I also booked a trip to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan for a client who insisted on travelling by bullet train or helicopter. The LGBTQ+ community is a lucrative market and we support each other, and it’s all about good service.
“Clients are very loyal – they would rather book with me than another agent because I am relevant for them.”
My average booking value is £6,000. Popular destinations are the Med – Spain, Greece, Tel Aviv – and, farther afield, Australia and the US. A lot of people are now desperate to travel somewhere hot. This year looks to be mainly Europe and close to home, with UK holidays going crazy. I did see a huge increase in UK prices and a lot of places are now sold out for the summer. I sell a lot of cottage holidays in the southwest, Lake District and Bognor Regis. Clients are very loyal – they would rather book with me than another agent because I am relevant for them.
And more people are looking to book with agents; people see them as important again, after all the press about refunds.