Your Stories: From professional dancer to setting up homeworking agency Black Voyage

The professional dancer Jo Baiao tells Andrew McQuarrie how his performing career led him to set up homeworking agency Black Voyage, which is affiliated to InteleTravel

Q. Why did you decide to become a travel agent?
My partner at the time was already a travel agent. As a performer, I got to travel a lot for shows or competitions. And we performers like to stay in nice places. So I thought I could help people in the same industry – I could help to book their hotels or anything they needed for their trip. I then approached other friends who travel a lot for work, and started to book. And with that, I became a little more visible on social media and I was then approached by others.

Q. Who are your clients?
I would say the majority are dancers, because that’s the industry I started in. I’m currently working on a booking for a dancer friend who is a celebrity in the UK. My clients are high-profile and high-net-worth individuals. But now I’ve stepped more into production companies and corporate travel, so I get to do bigger projects. I will give the same attention to anyone who comes my way, no matter what their budget is, but I focus on bespoke luxury holidays and anything to do with high-end stays.

Q. How do you source your clients?
Most of the time, clients come to us – we don’t go to them. And that means a lot, because it means people talk about us and they recommend us and we’re contacted. That’s how it’s been working so far and we’re very happy about it.

Q. How much do you use social media or other forms of promotion?
We do a lot more now. We’ve got a camera drone and new technology to help us improve our content. I come across other profiles that do the same as we do, but they don’t have the same content. We tried to invest a little bit more and to come across as more professional. That’s what we stand for – to deliver the most high‑definition and updated information about the resorts we visit. We want to be able to show everything, because it’s all about the experience. When you pass it on to your clients, they will trust you more just by seeing that you’ve been there or you have this kind of content to show them. I use the drone every time I go on a trip.

Q. What are your ambitions for the next 12 months?
Our goal is to reach £1 million in sales pretty soon – we are very close. And we want to get Black Voyage out there a bit more. We want anyone to know that if they’re looking for exquisite destinations and the best service that adds value, then we’re the place to come to. With the contacts we have, I’m pretty sure that’s going to happen. But it takes time to get there.

Q. What are the best pieces of advice you’ve picked up in your travel career so far?
Know your client and make sure you understand what their needs are. I always make sure that I ask what my client is really looking for and what their cost expectations are. And get to know your clients a bit more on a personal level too, because you want to make their trip as memorable as possible. If I know a bit more about you on a personal level, I might be able to add something in your room, such as a specific fruit or a special flower.

Q. What’s your own favourite destination?
I really loved the Seychelles and would like to go back. The moment you step out of that plane, you feel the heat and everything is just stunning – you’ve got that amazing crystal-clear water and all the greenery. Everything is amazing. It’s a little piece of paradise.

Q. What was the highlight of your dance career?
Achieving a bronze medal in the Latin category at the world equality dance championships in Paris in 2018. Equality dance is much bigger now and more visible than ever before, but when I won bronze it was a big achievement. Coming third in the world in equality dance is pretty good!

Can you tell us more about your dance career, and if it has helped you in travel?

I started dancing in the UK when I was seven years old. Later in life, I decided to move overseas to look for more dancing opportunities. So I stepped into the world of international competitions and now I work in the show and entertainment industry, where I perform on stage and go on tours with the Strictly Come Dancing professionals. We’re all friends and it is amazing performing alongside them. I also have a dance school in London, so I’m very busy with my dancing career. However, it’s not unusual for performers to work later in the day, which means I often find myself with spare time during the day. I wanted to find something else to do with my time that would be flexible around my own schedule. Travel seemed to fit, and so now I have two careers. I wouldn’t say my dance experience has helped particularly with my travel business, but it has been very useful for building contacts. I also meet people at various events, not all of them dance‑related, so it’s a bit of a mix.

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