Rikki Dunnage and Edward Cox launched Island Travel in 2013, having both previously worked in the same Thomas Cook store – Dunnage as branch manager for 10 years.
“The store was doing really well with me managing it and Ed smashing it on sales. It was a big step to launch our own agency, but we believed we had a strong strategy, based around customer service and what you might call old school values.”
Cox added: “Thomas Cook was becoming a bit robot-like and we believed we could do it better.”
Dunnage explained that sourcing the money to start the business had been difficult. “We started off with maxed-out credit cards and family loans,” he said. “The banks weren’t willing to lend because they didn’t think the financial climate was right.”
Dunnage was working 16-18 hour days initially, while Cox earned extra cash in a restaurant. “Thankfully Hays was hugely supportive,” he said.
Dunnage added that incorporating a foreign exchange service had been an additional “challenge”: “The regulation around it is really tight so it took six months to get the licences.”
But the pair certainly believe the hard work has been worth it. “We work hard and play hard,” said Dunnage. And it seems like the team has perfected a fairly unusual customer acquisition strategy, with 40% of its business originating via Facebook.
Island Travel has caught the attention of its suppliers too, taking home three awards at the conference.