In this blog, Luke Western our Head of Sales and Marketing interviews Richard Dixon one of the directors of Holidaysplease. Richard started Holidaysplease back in 2002 and it’s grown successfully since then. He shares some really helpful insights about what it takes to start a travel business, what to consider things like why our partnership or our involvement with the Hayes travel independence group is so important and the kind of personality traits that he would look for in a franchisee. So if you are thinking of starting a travel business, you will find this video very helpful.
What is your background and what is your role with Holidaysplease and holiday franchise company?
I spent pretty much the whole of my working life in travel. I started back in the eighties working for then Thompson Holidays now known as TUI, I started working in their Birmingham call centre at the age of 18 on the phones selling holidays, which gave me a taste for the industry. I then found my way to the retail side of the business, where I ended up running a shop with my soon-to-be wife Sonya when were in our early twenties. We managed to build that shop up to a reasonable level then brought a second shop in the mid-nighties.
We then ran the two shops together and then things started to change a little bit when the new century arrived. And, the internet was obviously really starting to have an impact and be an exciting opportunity that we started to investigate as a retail travel agent. That led to a meeting with Charles. Who’s, obviously our co-founder in Holidaysplease and we kind of got together and eventually decided it would be a good idea to do something together.
We had the mad idea that we would market upmarket long haul holidays on the internet which has worked out very well for us as we have been operating for over 20 years now and have become a very successful business over the last kind of 20 years and, continues to go forward, today with the expansion of the holiday franchise company, which is obviously going really well, under your stewardship with Jo and Luke.
what would you say would be the most important traits of someone starting their own business?
I think if you are going to be starting from scratch there are certain attributes that in travel really help. And I think the first one is that you like to be in and around people, even if you’re not in the room with people, even if you’re speaking to them on the phone or it’s virtual, you need to have that kind of people person skills, you need to be good at kind of making connections, building relationships because that’s really, really important. You know Travel is a people business. People love to talk about travel. How many times do you go and get your haircut? And the first thing they say to you if you’ve been on your holidays this year, it’s a conversation starter. So people love talking about travel and holidays. So I think if you are that kind of person that will really, really help you.
I think the other thing is, you know, it’s about, are you a person that likes to discover new things? I mean, you know, very, very, very few of us have been everywhere in the world. So travel is always about discovering new products, learning new products, and then obviously presenting that product to your prospective customers and hopefully selling the odd holiday along the way. So I think being a person that likes to discover new things and learn new things is a really big help as well.
So thinking back to 20 years ago, in early Holidaysplease what were the challenges that you sort of faced back then?
If I rewind right back to when Sonya and I were kins of starting out on the high street there were certainly some things there that I think is really relevant. And I think the biggest thing was that for the first two or three years, in particular, was that we were on our own and we didn’t really know what we were doing to an extent, but we didn’t really if the truth be told Luke and it wasn’t until about kind of three or four years in that we joined a local consortium of travel agents. And I was really lucky. I met, a couple of, you know, guys who were willing to kind of put up with this young whipper snapper asking loads of stupid questions. And I learned to load from those guys, and it really helped me to start to, build my business in a more strategic way. So I think the first thing is to be prepared to put yourself in a place where, you know, you’ve got, you’ve got, you know experience of support around you.