Sheffield-based homeworker Jackie Frith is also a reiki healer. She tells Harry Kemble about balancing that with her travel work, and how Covid has impacted both businesses.
Q. How did the pandemic affect your business?
A. In terms of the travel business, it’s been really bad and at the moment it still doesn’t seem to be improving like we thought it would. Seeing the travel industry that you’ve been part of for 36 years being decimated is soul destroying. Fortunately, I have a holistic business that I started in 2012. Covid gave me the opportunity to bring everything online. Before Covid I taught reiki healing face to face, alongside my travel business, and I had a therapy room but that all changed last year and I had to starting teaching online.
Q. How have travel sales been since Covid?
A. I tried not to book any holidays last year because we had no idea if customers would get to travel or not. The bookings I moved from 2020 to 2021 are now being moved again, to 2022, or customers are cancelling. I did two bookings last year and one of them has just cancelled and the other one was a cruise for November 2022. It was important for me to have something else to focus my mind on, alongside my travel business. I did social media for Travel-PA before the pandemic. This has helped with my spiritual business too, and I’m using those skills to help others with social media.
“I did two bookings last year and one of them has just cancelled and the other one was a cruise for November 2022.”
Q. What did you do instead of selling travel?
A. I taught reiki classes via Zoom and Facebook Live. My spiritual business kept me going, but I wasn’t earning what I would have been earning from travel. I knew I had to adapt, so I set up a Facebook group, Spiritual Females Success Tribe, and decided to start helping small business owners with the basics of setting up a business. I was also running crystal workshops, teaching people how to use them, and selling crystals.
Q. How did you get into travel?
A. I started at 16 on a YTS (youth training scheme) with a company called Redfern Travel in Sheffield. I’d never really thought about going into travel before. I was at secretarial college and they told me I needed to go on placement and asked if I fancied going to work at a travel agency. I said yes as it sounded really interesting and exciting and I’ve never looked back. Over the last 36 years I’ve had quite a number of jobs within travel; I worked for Going Places and managed two shops. The last job I had on the high street was at American Express Travel in Sheffield, where I stayed for nine years and ended up being office manager.
“I’d never really thought about going into travel before. I was at secretarial college and they told me I needed to go on placement and asked if I fancied going to work at a travel agency.”
Q. You specialise in wellness retreat holidays. How did you get into that?
A. Since 2012, I’ve wanted to blend my spiritual background with travel rather than seeing them as two businesses. A great way to do this was to get into the retreat side of travel. In 2012 when I was on my break from travel I realised that the holistic business was just not bringing in enough money and a friend said ‘why don’t you go back into travel. You are so good at it?’. The only company I wanted to work for was Sunset Travel, which owns Travel-PA. When I was at Holiday Experts, I was a Mauritius expert and most of the bookings I did were through Sunset. I knew Travel-PA had set up a homeworking division and it appealed to me. I approached Hamish Kaumaya [Travel-PA’s managing director] and started working there in January 2013.
Q. How many travel companies have a deep understanding about wellness, and how much of your business does it represent?
A. There are lots of companies out there and I went on a fam trip with Wellbeing Escapes and Aspire [Travel Weekly’s sister title] a few years ago. Wellbeing Escapes has a great portfolio of wellness and retreat hotels. It tends to be more operators than agents who specialise in this area. I’d say it’s 70:30 split towards traditional holidays. Wellness is not the easiest of industries to get into. When Covid began last year a lot of the plans I had for retreats and wellness holidays never got off the ground because the industry came to a standstill.
“Wellness is not the easiest of industries to get into. When Covid began last year a lot of the plans I had for retreats and wellness holidays never got off the ground.”
How can agents start selling wellbeing holidays?
Agents need to have an interest in wellness and have to understand what wellness is all about and why people want to go on these trips. They are not cheap holidays, so there are opportunities to be had. I went on an Aspire fam in Portugal in 2016 and it would have cost me £1,500- £2,000 if I had paid for it myself.
“People are becoming more aware of themselves and what is going on in their body and spirit. We live in such a hectic world that people want to do things to relax .”
Wellbeing Escapes is one of the big operators in the market. A lot of the tour operators are direct-sell which is one of the big stumbling blocks. However, Wellbeing Escapes and Inspiring Travel Company do sell through agents. Sunset Travel is a tour operator, which means we get tour operator rates rather than agent ones. A lot of the time I make the bookings through Sunset Travel or directly with the DMCs.
Sometimes, people want to go on wellness breaks because they may have trauma in their life. But in general, people are becoming more aware of themselves and what is going on in their body and spirit. We live in such a hectic world that people want to do things to relax and detox.