Creating a business plan from a sun lounger while on holiday sounds unusual but it was vital for Helen Parry, who opened Arundel Travel last December after spotting the perfect store in the summer.
Previously a regional sales manager for Jet2holidays and in retail at Tui for 19 years before that, Parry had always dreamt of opening her own store.
“Circumstances changed when my daughter moved up to high school and over a curry with my husband I said I wanted to open my own shop. He was really supportive and we agreed to look into it the following August (2018).”
But things speeded up when Parry and her mum were walking around Otley and saw a shop available in an ideal crossroads location.
“I always knew I wanted to open in Otley – I spent a while here when I was with Tui – I have family ties here and there is a fantastic local community. Seeing the shop was fate,” she says.
Parry wasted no time – joining the Advantage Travel Partnership, recruiting two experienced sales consultants and opening the doors to Arundel Travel in December – just in time for the peak selling period.
“We were busy from the moment we opened the door,” she says. “Some of it was intrigue and having Jet2holidays branding drew customers in. They would book a Jet2holidays city break and then go on to book a holiday to Australia or Thailand. Long-haul has done really well for us – we’ve built really strong relationships with suppliers such as If Only… and we’ve done well on the luxury side of things.”
Arundel Travel now has more than 800 followers on Facebook, and although the team worked really hard at the outset, flyering local areas and farmers’ markets, plus sponsoring local teams and events, Parry says the social media channel has been their biggest business driver.
“We post some deals, but it’s more about inspiration and encouraging people to think about trying somewhere new,” she says.
Of course, there were lots of logistics such as back-office systems and electrics to contend with – but Parry says the biggest challenge she encountered when starting the business was re-educating people to book with a travel agent.
“People are so confident booking online now, but more than two-thirds of our business is people who would normally book online. I’ve really pushed points such as no booking fees, having more than 200 tour operators to check with, and that everything we sell is protected.”
Another smart decision that’s paying off for Parry is opting to open seven days a week.
“We wanted to make ourselves available for the modern family. I thought we’d really have to advertise it, but it has been amazing. Sundays are buzzing – we have people sat on the sofas reading brochures and couples, families, the lot all coming in.”
Offering opportunities to the next generation is also high on Parry’s agenda – having started out on Lunn Poly’s Youth Training Scheme herself.
“We work with Craven College, which has a big travel and tourism department, and have had two trainees in every week for five weeks. I’d love to take on an apprentice in the future too. I think it’s so important to get that practical experience on the job.”
After achieving so much in just five months, Arundel Travel looks set for industry stardom, and with Parry at the helm it seems the local community and the youth of tomorrow’s travel industry will benefit too.