‘I’m not a digital nomad, I am a travel agent with the flexibility to run my business from anywhere’, says managing director of new online travel agency Tripse, Denise Parkhouse. She talks to Juliet Dennis
Q. Why did you set up your own online agency?
A. I’ve been in the industry for 20 years. I have worked for companies including Lastminute.com, Laterooms and Super Break, where I was operations director when they went pop. I was one of the employees that had to close the company. After that I took six months off. It was quite stressful closing the company and selling the assets and during that time I realised I wanted to do my own thing, so I decided to set up my own travel agency, Tripse.
I didn’t know the pandemic was around the corner, but I didn’t want to leave travel, and set up the business in May 2021. It’s been a challenge and not what I envisaged. It’s an online travel agency, but customer service is a big part of our ethos.
It was quite stressful closing the company and selling the assets and during that time I realised I wanted to do my own thing
Q. Tell us about Tripse. What do you sell?
A. It’s a full online travel agency. At the moment we are purely selling tour operator packages. We will not have our own Atol until later on this year; then we can package our own trips. When we first started we were selling Premier League and Six Nations packages, we were selling what we could.
At the moment I’m a little tied to operator packages, but it’s got us trading. We are selling mainly Europe. We have been doing some UK bookings, but it’s mostly escorted tours and river cruises. The flexibility of an Atol means we will be able to use bed banks to put together packages and experiences. It will allow us to take the business to a different level.
The flexibility of an Atol means we will be able to use bed banks to put together packages and experiences
Q. Why did you opt to join Protected Trust Services?
A. I wanted to make sure we had a technology system that was flexible and worked well anywhere. If I wanted to go away for six months I wanted flexibility so I could still handle customers and I wanted the business to work for me. PTS uses the same technology system as us, TProfile. The system allows me to go away for a month and run my business from elsewhere. We knew staffing was a challenge and this technology means there is no reason why you cannot take staff from anywhere as long as there is a phone system. I also liked the model PTS offered, where you can sign up any suppliers you like.
We knew staffing was a challenge and this technology means there is no reason why you cannot take staff from anywhere as long as there is a phone system
Q. You recently worked in Mauritius for a month. How did that come about?
A. My mum and dad are in their late 70s and had not been away during the pandemic. They were a little nervous about travelling so I found a decent-priced Airbnb and said “let’s go”. I had to persuade them to do it, but they loved it. Now they want to go somewhere else and make it an annual thing!
I picked Mauritius as I had not been and going there for a month was a great way to understand the destination. I worked full-time out there. They are four hours ahead so I could spend the mornings at the beach or with my parents. I started work at 1pm and worked until 10pm. I have a staff member in the UK who took over the calls from 10pm (6pm UK time).
I want to see the world and if it’s somewhere I’ve not been and I can work while I do it, it’s a complete result for me
Q. Where next?
A. I’m already planning to go to Corfu in June to work for six weeks. I did six weeks in Corfu last year as one of my friends has a house there and we could combine the trip with my job. You get used to knowing what you need to have and improve on it each time. I am already planning next year’s trip with my parents. I am debating where I have not been and where will work from a time perspective. I want to see the world and if it’s somewhere I’ve not been and I can work while I do it, it’s a complete result for me. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to have my own business.
I have one member of staff who is full-time and as volumes increase I definitely plan to take on more
Q. Any future plans?
A. I definitely want to grow the business, but currently I am focusing on the over-50s market, selling escorted tours and river cruises, and it’s working well. All the decisions I have made have been around whether the business can expand. I have one member of staff who is full-time and as volumes increase I definitely plan to take on more. Staff could live in Thailand, it doesn’t matter as long as the time difference works.
How easy was it to run your business from overseas?
The key to working abroad is having the right technology system and a mobile printer and laptop. We work with TProfile; it powers our website, products and customer interaction.
The technology allows me to go away for a month and run my business from wherever I am. The phone system allows us to take calls anywhere, as long as there’s internet and the phone rings through to my mobile.
I don’t class myself as a digital nomad, I am a travel agent but I have flexibility, so I can run the business from anywhere and expand it
Clients cannot book online, they need to email or use the chat facility, or we can take calls. Customers don’t even know you are in a different country. I don’t class myself as a digital nomad, I am a travel agent but I have flexibility, so I can run the business from anywhere and expand it.
Working abroad is good from a strategy perspective; you have a bit more headspace. It’s lovely when you wake up and have coffee outside. You just have a different feel, your head is in a different place.
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