Comment: Staying still is not an option in this industry

Designer Travel managing director Amanda Matthews urges industry firms to try something new in 2024

Change can often be scary and daunting. We all like to be comfortable, we like to know what we are doing and we like to be in full control at all times. However, this leap‑year week seems like an opportune time to encourage all of you to step out of your comfort zone and to focus on trying something new, whether it’s in your business or personal life.

When it comes to shaking things up, we can often get worked up thinking about what could go wrong instead of thinking about what the new changes could improve; they might give your business extra value, save you time, make you more money or make you feel happier.

If you’re someone who takes the approach of the Dr Pepper ads and thinks about the worst thing that could happen, you might take comfort in knowing very few things you do will have a lasting negative effect on you or your business – certainly nowhere to the degree you might imagine. As the old saying goes, it is better to fail trying than to never try. You will also learn from everything you do, which will help shape you for your next change. Remember, every day is a school day.

I’ve always lived by the motto that if you do what you always do, you will get what you always get. This saying pushes both me and the Designer Travel dream team to constantly try new things and to always push forward. Staying still is simply not an option in this industry and we apply that to everything we do.

Diversify service

Our business has more than doubled from what we were doing pre-Covid and a lot of our growth has come not just from attracting more amazing home‑based luxury travel experts, but by doing and trying new things.

We have been in the market of selling luxury leisure travel since we started Designer Travel in 2008, and just a few years ago we decided to dip our toes into becoming a quality cruise agent. We had always booked cruises but it wasn’t historically a key focus area for us. That was until 2022, when we launched Cruise Designers, a programme aimed at taking our cruise business from just over £2 million to £5 million in 12 months. We recognised that we had gaps in our knowledge and knew we had to get more of our team to love cruising. We kicked the programme off with the support of Celebrity Cruises, who took a leap of faith in us and gave us more than 20 places on their Celebrity Beyond short sailing in April 2022.

Plan for change

Following this we took our top-sellers on an AmaWaterways river cruise, in addition to numerous other cruise events. The result? We smashed our ambitious target and achieved £5.5 million in cruise sales in our first year of focusing on cruise. We now have over 90% of our home-based experts who have either cruised or who have visited at least one ship, and we continue to push our sales forward with a comprehensive marketing and training plan. One of our top cruise lines is Celebrity Cruises and our first-ever cruise award was, rather aptly, given to us by Celebrity Cruises in January 2024.

It’s important to remember you can’t just take a leap to do something new unless you really plan for it, commit to it and keep focused until the end of your plan. We had a plan for our cruise growth and we then set about planning for our next leap: growth in touring and adventure sales. We started this push in April last year and I am pleased to say our sales in this sector are again exceeding our ambitious targets.

If you want to be successful, taking risks and stepping outside your comfort zone is essential. As author Mandy Hale said, change can be scary, but you know what’s scarier? Allowing fear to stop you from growing, evolving and progressing.

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