Josh Martin, London-based independent consultant for Many Moons, part of Global Travel Collection, set up as a honeymoon specialist just before Covid hit. By Juliet Dennis.
Q. Why did you set up an agency specialising in honeymoons?
A. I had been on honeymoon and had planned honeymoons for quite a few friends and family. I have always loved travel since I was young. I did quite detailed itineraries for friends and I like to think they were useful. I realised I could translate that into a business rather than do it ad hoc. Obviously being a travel professional is difficult. I was in advertising and marketing previously. I had to learn how to package up product and build relationships. Luckily, GTC [Global Travel Collection] and Colletts Travel, also part of GTC, have great relationships with suppliers. Learning the ropes took time. It’s not been an easy ride. I made the transition [to being an agent] and then the pandemic hit!
“I did quite detailed itineraries for friends and I like to think they were useful. I realised I could translate that into a business rather than do it ad hoc.”
Q. Describe what it was like for your business a year ago when the lockdown started.
A. I was a new business and I questioned whether to shut it all down. But I had spent time setting up the brand; I had been working on it since early 2019 and started trading that October. My wife and I decided to wait and see what happened. My overheads were low and it was my first few months of trading. I had a couple of honeymoons booked but I was getting through OK.
We were looking at weddings for 2021 and the market was booming, but then it came tumbling down and the enquiries dried up. Luckily, I didn’t have too many cancellations. Most of my work was enquiries and planning ahead, otherwise it would have been a real baptism of fire. It was quite disheartening because you put a lot of effort into it [planning honeymoons]. It was a real time of despair and of thinking ‘how long is this going to last?’ There was a lot of pessimism around because there were lockdowns around the world.
“We were looking at weddings for 2021 and the market was booming, but then it came tumbling down and the enquiries dried up.”
Q. What types of holidays did you manage to sell last year?
A. I had started off the business with honeymoon clients but it really pivoted towards families for summer last year. The staycation market was the first to reopen. I thought I had to take advantage of that and I built up a clientele happy to book small trips for 2020 and also for 2021. It was great from a long-term client perspective, but not from a revenue perspective. Although I had set out doing just honeymoons and weddings, I wouldn’t turn business down. My service remains the same although honeymoons are more special because it’s an emotional holiday. The family staycation bookings will not bring in the revenue of honeymoons but they will tide me over and lead to more business and referrals.
“The strange thing about the pandemic is that the companies that have helped people have now got clients for life.”
Q. How have clients been affected by the pandemic?
A. I know people that have never used a travel agent and now want someone to help them to book. They don’t want to get stuck. The strange thing about the pandemic is that the companies that have helped people have now got clients for life. I don’t think people realised how much we do in the background until things went wrong. People need someone to hold their hand more than ever. There is a massive amount of pent-up demand. For some people it might be nearly two years since they last went away.
“I have been active on Instagram and LinkedIn during the pandemic and have tried to give people an honest opinion of what is happening.”
Q. How have you maintained your agency’s brand presence during Covid?
A. I have been active on Instagram and LinkedIn during the pandemic and have tried to give people an honest opinion of what is happening. My posts are all about telling stories of places. Every day I am looking for new content. It’s great if you can be consistent on social media. You don’t have to be the best content creator. Most of our bookings are by phone. We used to work out of GTC’s head office in St Martin’s Lane in London but now I am working at home. Most of our clients are in north London and pre-Covid we would meet them locally. Once the office reopens, I hope to split my work between St Martin’s Lane and home. I really miss meeting people in person!
What’s happened to the honeymoon market during the pandemic?
For honeymoons and weddings, its been a story of postponements, some even from early 2020. The only one I now have booked is for November 2021. People are booking further out. Most of my honeymoon sales are now for 2022. I think people feel more confident about being able to go next year.
“The Maldives is still really popular, as well as Sri Lanka and Thailand. And there’s a bit more demand for fly-and-flop holidays.”
Destinations have changed. Honeymooners were always looking for new places, especially the Instagram generation. Now it’s more about safe and secure destinations. The Maldives is still really popular, as well as Sri Lanka and Thailand. And there’s a bit more demand for fly-and-flop holidays.
There was a bit of a trend in December and January to book weddings in Dubai, and we were in conversations with suppliers about putting together a wedding package, but that business dried up.
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