How long have you worked in the travel industry?
I started out over 35 years ago, working for a small independent agency and eventually became a successful manager for a major multiple chain.
After a number of years I took two years out to travel via the Far East to Australia and ironically got a job as a travel agency manager in Queensland! I spent several months exploring New Zealand and then came home via Fiji and the USA. More recently I worked for an independent agency. Over the years I’ve travelled several times a year, constantly renewed my training through various programmes and forums, and have built up an excellent collection of contacts in the industry. If I haven’t been to a destination myself, I will almost certainly have a personal contact who has and they are invaluable.
Why did you start your own business and how is it different to other travel agencies?
I wanted to give my clients the same service they would receive from other professions, rather than sitting in a line of clients where their arrangements can be overheard. I work by appointment and while I’m now working from home due to Covid-19 my clients can discuss their requirements by phone, Zoom, in their own homes, or in central Harrogate over a coffee or tea. It’s been very well received by my clients who enjoy the confidentiality, and particularly good when someone is planning a surprise trip for a friend or relative.
What can new clients expect when they come to see you, and do you charge fees?
A discussion either face to face, via Zoom, or on the phone is essential for me to discover a new client’s interests and what they want from the holiday.
I don’t charge fees, the cost of the holiday is determined by what the tour operator charges, I simply wanted to offer a better and more personal service than a traditional travel agent.
It doesn’t stop at the holiday though, I contact each client on their return and genuinely love hearing about their experiences. Feedback is invaluable in helping me keep up to date on the properties and destinations I’m selling, as well as providing an insight into destinations that clients might like when they come back to me for future holidays.
What kind of holidays do you arrange?
Usually they are tailor-made for each individual client. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more expensive, it might be a simple city break or it might be a trip of a life time. Often people come to me because what they want is too complicated for them to do themselves, or because they can’t decide where to go and want some inspiration. Holidays minimising driving can be attractive to some clients and I often suggest a rail journey instead of a long drive or domestic flight. Increasingly clients are looking for more of an interactive holiday experience rather than just a beach holiday and come to me for suggestions.
I know you have a loyal following, who are your clients?
I have a wide range of clients. Many are time-poor professionals who simply don’t have time to plan their holidays. As I’ve got to know them very well they often just email me a few lines with their requirements and leave me to suggest ideas, destinations, properties and activities for them. I have a number of clients, acquired by word of mouth, who I have never met, we just talk on the phone or correspond via email, some live down south and a few actually live overseas.
Other clients might use the internet for straightforward flights, but like to come to me for their more complicated arrangements.
Why Bakewell Travel?
I joined Bakewell Travel as they are a small network of highly experienced self employed travel professionals, who provide me with ABTA and ATOL protection for my clients. Unlike many travel organisations Bakewell Travel set a high standard and you can’t buy your way in. We are also members of AITO, the highly respected Association of Independent Tour Operators making us one of their preferred “AITO Travel Agents” and giving us access to many small niche market tour operators that don’t sell through multiple travel agencies.
Where are your favourite places and where have you travelled to recently?
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to travel to a huge variety of destinations, including; three times to Australia, twice to New Zealand, South and North Africa, Jordan, the Far East, Mauritius, the Seychelles, numerous times to the USA and Canada, Russia, and countless times to Europe. I actually prefer lakes and mountains to beaches, so Canada, the Italian Lakes, Switzerland, and New Zealand are my favourites, but I also really enjoy exploring cities.
I like to find new destinations to recommend to clients, sometimes in unexpected places. A couple of years ago I was invited on a work trip to the Centro region of Portugal. Uncommercial, unpopulated, unspoilt, from beautifully scenic mountain villages to vast empty beaches, it was full of surprises. Centro wouldn’t suit everyone but if you’re not bothered about iconic cultural sights, are happy to self drive, and like to explore new areas it’s worth a visit before it gets too popular.
In the last couple of years I’ve visited Rio de Janiero, Slovenia, Croatia, Halkidiki and a multi-centre trip to North Carolina building a holiday around a family wedding. My favourite recent trip though was to Puglia in Southern Italy last September, still very unspoilt, and with incredible food.
How has COVID-19 affected travelling and your business?
There is no doubt that Covid-19 has had a devastating effect on the travel industry worldwide. I spent lockdown cancelling and postponing holidays and organising refunds for clients who were very grateful not to have to do it themselves.
A highlight was being interviewed by BBC Look North and ITV Calendar, both programmes aired during May and were a bit of a challenge with lockdown hair.
I advised against arranging any departures for July and August but as we begin to move out of the worst of the virus clients are now making bookings from September onwards to carefully selected areas on the understanding that should FCO ruling change a full refund will be provided.
It is clear from enquiries I’ve had that the value of using a travel agent for professional advice and guidance has never been higher. It is essential that travellers are fully informed of the latest often complicated government travel advice and have valid comprehensive travel insurance.READ MORE[/x_promo]
“For all our holiday needs we feel that Jacquie knows us better than we do. We always receive valuable advice on any destinations we have not previously visited and Jacquie is our first call when planning any holiday” David & Dawn Cull
Many of my clients have no idea where they want to go on holiday and come to me for ideas and inspiration, everyone is different and you may not like the same kind of holiday that your friends or relatives enjoy and recommend. I always take time to find out a little bit about new clients and what they want from their holiday, I often come up with suggestions that they would never have thought of themselves..MAKE ENQUIRY