Few would argue with Travel Directors CEO Gary Pridmore when he says: “It’s been a funny old year.” But the self-confessed eternal optimist and positive thinker is adamant opportunities are out there for the taking, with clients open to suggestions about making their next holiday particularly memorable after being unable to travel for so long.
How has COVID affected travel trends?
We are seeing an increase in interest for multi-generational trips among people who have missed out on special events over the past 12 months and who want to get together for Christmas or a celebratory birthday. We’re talking to people who might have been planning to go away for Christmas or New Year to look at doing a group booking to make up for lost time with loved ones.
We’ve said to them: ‘We can find very large villas, perfect for a family of 20 or 30, where you can be safe in your own bubble.’ Before the pandemic, a lot of them wouldn’t have thought of it, either because they didn’t really know it was possible or because they didn’t know they wanted to. The pandemic has made us all want to spend quality time with loved ones.
We’ve been giving people ideas of options, depending on their budgets.
People’s attitude is: ‘Let’s push the boat out.’ As a result, they are upgrading from premium economy to business class and to a next-level suite. Others are looking at private jets. For large numbers of people wanting to fly away for a group holiday, it works out very cost-effective. Again, they’ve probably never thought of it before. We tell them: ‘We can get you a flight where you don’t have to sit with anyone you don’t know.’
How’s COVID affected clients’ demands
People are coming to us who have, in the past, used mainstream online agencies with call centres, and they’ve struggled to get hold of anyone when they’ve needed to. They like the security of dealing with someone who knows about the booking and who provides a personal service. Here, homeworkers have the edge.
Is it still possible to make money?
Absolutely. One of our homeworkers made £50,000 in total in 2019 and last year, her total earnings dropped by just £100. Another has sold a £58,000 trip to Namibia. I’ve got homeworkers who made £8,000 in commission last month.
Explain the divisions within Aquilium Travel Group
Aquilium is our very exclusive concierge service for top-level travel, where clients’ minimum spend is £20,000.
The Travel Directors is our luxury homeworking company, selling five-star holidays and above.
The Travel Managers is our mainstream homeworking operation, which still focuses on quality. We set it up last year because we were getting an awful lot of interest from agents wanting to join but who didn’t fit the Travel Directors criteria. We’ve had some really good people signing up.
You believe there’s no better time for someone to launch their own business. Why do you say that?
In the past we’ve had a lot of people wanting to join us but were afraid to give up a secure income. COVID has pushed people who are now being made redundant, are concerned about their future, or are already now on Universal Credit and looking for a job. Anyone who starts a business with us right now has no pre-existing bookings to cancel and nothing in the pipeline. It’s always better to start in a downturn market as you can only go one way – and that’s up. There will be huge demand and there is also less competition out there.
It’s a cost-effective way to launch your own business, under our umbrella. Our homeworkers are free to sell what they want and go out and look for the business. We help them with ideas.
What are the benefits of working for The Travel Directors or The Travel Managers?
We offer a choice of commission schemes to suit the individual from the traditional scheme to one that pays instant commissions regardless of departure date.
We have invested in new technology, such as introducing new quote systems. We’ve also invested highly in training and helping our homeworkers to develop their skill sets and spend time to help them on marketing. We’ve increased staff at head office. All of this means we’re getting ready for when the rush comes.
Are price increases for 2022 and beyond a good thing?
Everyone’s moaning about holiday prices going up, but the more they go up, the more money agents will make. There are masses of opportunities out there and we’ve got people making a lot of money.