Wimbledon-based agency Swords Travel is to cut the ribbon on its first shop next month and is also launching a new luxury golf brand.
Swords Travel, which was the winner of the TTG Luxury Travel Awards Star of Tomorrow category this year, was started by Mark and Stuart Swords three years ago. Coincidentally, their new shop is on the same street as the first home the couple shared together in the area.
The shop is in the busy south Wimbledon area and is on the site of a former tyre shop called Top Gear, a twin-fronted corner shop location. The Swords have taken a 10-year lease on the shop and undertaken a full refit.
The team has vacated Swords’ previous off-street office and moved into the new shop this week (8 July), with the finishing touches being prepared to make them customer-ready within weeks, most likely to be 9 August onwards, Mark said.
It will be the head office of the business, which now has five members of staff, including two luxury travel consultants Francesca Stevenson and Sarah Reeves. Mark said he was also keen to expand further, looking to open a further two shops in south-west London and Surrey within the next five years.
“From the day we started, we always said we wanted a high street store – we just wanted to make sure we were established in the area first,” said Mark. “And now we have the shop, we also have some space to do a small event each month, one that ties in with our regularly changing themes – which also feeds into the themes we will have in our windows.”
The plan will be to open Monday-Saturday, and late night on Thursdays. “We’ve seen how busy it is along this street when commuters are coming home, so we will see how it goes. We are also happy to come in on Sundays if there are people who want dedicated appointments.”
The team also now includes Sean Gay, an accomplished golfer who has joined the business as golf sales manager to head up a new side of the business, Swords Golf Travel.
“The typical golfer is 50-60+ and that’s also the demographic we feel likes some help when planning holidays, so the two things go well together when they are looking for a golf trip overseas,” said Gay. “There are already golf operators and agents out there of course, but they tend to focus on taking large groups to European courses on fairly set packages, and it’s quite a deal-orientated business.
“Instead, we really want to offer high-end, individual trips to some of the best courses in the world and build in really memorable experiences to the trip too, primarily to long-haul destinations such as Australia, Asia, the Middle East and South Africa. We don’t think there are any other agencies offering this kind of thing,” Gay added.
“Down the line, there is also the potential for us to start offering trips via other agents too, once we’re established and know we would be in a position to work with them as well as our own clients,” Mark said.
With more than 130 golf clubs in Surrey alone, Gay said their membership was an obvious starting place to spread the word about Swords Golf Travel. Swords Travel has also joined Trafford Enterprises, a senior-level private members networking group.
Swords Travel has also acquired a T-Atol via its TTA / The Travel Network Group membership. “We value the operators we work with a great deal, but for the sake of £750 a year, we decided it was worth the extra investment for when we do need to build any trips outside of what they can offer, especially on the golf side of things”, Mark said.
The agency is also relaunching its website at the same time as the store opening, with a new focus on being more content-driven, such as regular blogs, video and inspirational themes for users to search by. The site will also feature new staff photography, synch with Swords Travel’s Instagram account, and prioritise ‘what we do’ as a section, with Mark saying clients still often ask them to set out “how we work as an agency”.
Swords Travel is also working with local media group Time & Leisure on a campaign that will help spread the message to more than 40,000 households via its lifestyle magazines and beyond in digital marketing.
“They have helped us come up with a really strong strategy that focuses on us as a business, as well as the travel we can book for people,” Mark explained.