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Agent Janet Mactavish on staying creative during the crisis

Bookings might have dropped but one agent is trying to see the crisis as an opportunity to perfect other parts of her business and foster creative new ideas. April Hutchinson reports


Watching a webinar featuring British singer Seal and starting a vegan guide for hoteliers are just two of the unusual pursuits Janet Mactavish has been engaging in since bookings started drying up due to the Covid-19 crisis.


She has been running her business, Janet Mactavish Travel Designer for 10 years, but for the past three has also focused on organising luxury training retreats. She would usually organise four a five a year, covering anything from business coaching, to yoga or painting, with a maximum of 25 people per retreat.


Having a pause on bookings has allowed her to hone a guide she had written to help personal assistants and coaches understand how to organise the retreats as well.


“Not everyone can afford the services of a planner like me for their retreat but I wanted to be able to share some knowledge, as there are different levels of coaches and venues out there,” she says, adding the guides could just as easily work for a travel consultant who wants to offer retreat organising too.


“There is a lot to think about, but much of it involves skills that agents already have in terms of organisation and knowledge, and having spoken to all the coaches that I’m connected with, it looks like these will only be in even higher demand once the Covid-19 crisis eases,” she says.


She has made a brief download about retreat planning that’s available for free on her website (, while a full "blueprint" How to Organise a Luxury Retreat is available for sale (£90), as is a shorter Ten Ways to Make More Money From Your Retreat (£30).


Her optimism permeates in other areas too, having made sure her private Facebook group, Luxury Travel Talk, which she set up in November, is now a “Covid-free zone”, as it strives to offer plenty of inspiration for those dreaming of travelling again. And it’s growing steadily, with more than 300 members.


Lockdown entertainment

Lockdown entertainment

Meanwhile, it was a love for Italy that meant she got to watch Seal sing his hit song Crazy while on lockdown. The singer made a surprise appearance from home during a webinar about Tuscany arranged by DUCO, the high-end Italian trade fair that had to be cancelled this year.


The 57-year-old singer is a keen cyclist and while out riding recently, met someone who connected him to Andy Levine, founder of a cycling and adventure travel business that offers tours in Tuscany. The next day Seal was playing a starring role in the webinar.


While not every day contains a private performance from Seal, Mactavish is also filling her time thinking about creating a vegan guide.


Having been vegan for three years, she is planning a book with the hope of helping accommodation providers learn how to cater to the needs of such travellers, and hopes to create a version for Facebook initially.


And if she ever does run out of ideas, there are her 12 rescue chickens to take care of in her garden. “I’m lucky I don’t have any overheads, so until the clients come back – which they will – I am just trying to be creative with the time.”

Top tips for staying creative in lockdown

  • Stay connected in business groups or ones with your shared interests to keep conversations flowing around travel and absorb advice from other sectors.
  • Tune in to whatever webinars might be of use or personal interest – you never know what you might pick up, or who you might see.
  • Consider how you might add some diversity to your business offering. Now is a good time to start planning what other kinds of travel or lifestyle services you could offer once clients start planning again.
  • Indulge your own passions: there might never be another time when you find yourself with some time on your hands for special projects. And, if you are still working, bringing your attention away from the grind of refunds and rebookings could provide that all-important light relief and balance.
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