“Travel makes the world a better place. It breaks down cultural barriers, encourages understanding and celebrates diversity.”
The reason we travel is different for everyone but we’ve all been affected by the worldwide restrictions that have been placed on it. For some, it’s given them a deeper appreciation for the area they live in, others a chance to rest from a job that takes them all over the world and there are those that are busy planning their next trip, whenever that may be.
The travel industry has certainly been hit hard especially for independent travel consultants. We’ve spoken to one who started her travel business alongside a contracting role. Kate Holroyd from Strawberry Holidays specialises in tailor-made travel experiences for busy families and businesses. She’s supported clients as they arrange surprise family trips to Orlando, a solo trip across the US, and a European Christmas Market trip for a senior management team, just to name a few.
Time to handover to Kate.
First off, we hope you and your family are doing ok. How did you feel initially when you began to see the travel restrictions come into place?
Honestly? I wondered what the fuss was about. I was even sharing posts and anecdotes from Italian travel specialists, “Italy is open for travel”. It was only when the FCO started to ban travel into Italy and then Spain etc that I really started to understand the seriousness of the virus. In just a few short days the nerves sank in, and the worry about the impact on my business was all too real.
Fast forward to now, how are you feeling? What have Strawberry Holidays been up to over these last 8 weeks?
I genuinely feel great. I’m grateful that my family and I are healthy. For the business and my sanity, I’m working hard to maintain a positive outlook. I have a lot to be grateful for in the business, money in the bank to stay trading for over a year without making a booking. I work from home so my fixed costs are really small. I can work around looking after the kids.
As far as business activity goes, I’m steadily working through the administration of people’s refunds and re-arrangements. Re-assuring clients with video chats and sending out little notes in the mail. (Thank you FunkyPigeon.com!).
Marketing always presents a challenge. Knowing what to post, when. I’ve had to rework my entire strategy, and change calls to action etc. The first five weeks or so I ran some Travel Virtually trips. Taking my followers on virtual tours of Australia, California, Disney Destinations, Greece and even a Mediterranean cruise! We did cooking Facebook lives, and family meal lives as well as wine-tasting. We’ve started to feel a shift with people starting to look forward, so it feels like the right time to be promoting future trips. Winter 2020 and into 2021.
We’ve really enjoyed viewing your Instagram stories and virtual travel videos. You’ve inspired us to start thinking about a Deep South road trip in the USA! What’s been your favourite destination that you’ve virtually visited recently?
The Deep South is high on our agenda now too, I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the tourist boards on those trips! I’d have to say Queensland, Australia. There is so much to love out there, major bucket list experiences, not just your swimming with wildlife in the Great Barrier Reef! There’s the rainforest that’s over one million years old. Dining on a sand island that you reach by helicopter, sunsets at Cairns’ one rooftop bar, and the Everglades of Noosa.
If not there then Disney. I have found a lot of support and positivity in Disney the last few weeks. It’s amazing what putting some Minnie ears and dancing to the Moana soundtrack can do for your Positive Mental Attitude!
Let’s talk about business for a moment, what’s been a challenge that you’ve overcome in the last 12 months? How did you do it?
Putting Covid-19 to one side, I would say my Mother in Law stepping out of the business. It wasn’t an easy decision for her to retire. Building the confidence to run the business solo was tough. I’ve had to learn new skills, and now everything is up to me. No-one’s coming. It’s a challenge that I’m living with even now.
Over the whole Strawberry Holidays journey you’ve been on, what are you most proud of?
Right before the virus hit, we had our best ever month. I was on track in 2020 to see the business achieve quadruple growth. I’m proud of that, and it spurs me on every day in this crisis, knowing that I achieved it once, so I can do it again.
Finally, when we are able to travel again, where will you be heading first?
To date, I’ve had three trips put on hold, Malta, Dubai and Disneyland Paris but I think the first will be Disneyland Paris. My husband and I married 10 years ago in August and that was to be our celebration trip. So if we can – it will be still going ahead, just later in the year.
Thanks to Kate for taking the time out to answer our questions. Her responses touched on some common conversations we’ve had with clients about cash flow, overheads and the support needed when a partner exits the business. Although none of us could ‘plan’ for this, her organised and positive approach is great to see. She has taken the time to nurture her client base and consistently communicated with them in a creative way using the digital tools available to her.
“A river cuts through rock not because of its power, but because of its persistence.” Jim Watkins.
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