Your Stories: Why Aaron Pease launched The Trip Designers during the pandemic
‘The pandemic has made people think they should book that crazy holiday they’ve always talked about’, agent and cabin crew member Aaron Pease tells Samantha Mayling
Q. What is your background in travel?
A. I’ve worked for almost 11 years as cabin crew with different airlines. I have taken backpacking trips, solo adventures, luxury holidays and city breaks – I can’t get enough of new places. The pandemic was an opportunity to re-evaluate and that led to my decision to launch the business. I was furloughed for three months at the start of the pandemic, but I’ve been lucky to be flying throughout most of it. I also worked for the NHS as a Covid-19 vaccinator for a year, when I had extra time off in the UK.
The pandemic was an opportunity to re-evaluate and that led to my decision to launch the business
Q. Why did you start your agency business?
A. I launched The Trip Designers on January 4 after signing with The Holiday Franchise Company last September. It took almost a year of researching various companies to find the best fit. Luke Western, head of sales and marketing, was incredibly patient and never put pressure on me to sign. I wanted a new challenge, something to get my teeth into. Some thought I was mad to launch during the pandemic and the Omicron variant had just emerged, but I thought I would have the business ready when restrictions eased and demand returned.
I booked a two-week honeymoon that covers Cape Town, Kruger National Park and Zimbabwe for a few nights by Victoria Falls
Q. What was your first booking?
A. It was a three-week fly-drive to Cape Town for Christmas 2022. I was away for work in San Francisco when my client wanted to confirm. It was the strangest sense of excitement securing the booking; relief I’d found a client who trusted me; and nerves about making sure I got all the details right. Whenever I’m back in San Francisco, I’ll remember that feeling. My favourite booking is a honeymoon to Africa. My clients wanted to visit lots of places and, working with a fantastic specialist supplier, I booked a two-week honeymoon that covers Cape Town, Kruger National Park and Zimbabwe for a few nights by Victoria Falls. The couple were blown away by the itinerary and still message saying how excited they are.
I’m seeking suppliers to help me create tailored promotions and packages for Pride, queer and LGBT events around the world
Q. How is your business developing?
A. The Holiday Franchise Company offers in-depth training for new starters, covering website design and creation, Google Ads, marketing and sales. I can sell every kind of holiday and I’m positioning myself as an inclusive agency where everybody is welcome, no matter how they identify or where they’d like to go. Initially, I used Google Ads to create enquiries – gay cruise holidays were particularly popular. Since then, I’ve got most clients through social media channels. I plan to be involved in Pride celebrations and wedding events for heterosexual and homosexual couples.
As my business is online, I can market, engage with clients and complete bookings wherever I am in the world. I’ve confirmed sales while in San Francisco, Rio de Janeiro and New York. The team at The Holiday Franchise Company are great. I earn 10%-15% of the total holiday cost in commission, which is building into a lovely looking figure. I want to see this grow and be as big as it can. I also want to create conversations about LGBTQ+ travel – it shouldn’t just be around Pride in June. I’m seeking suppliers to help me create tailored promotions and packages for Pride, queer and LGBT events around the world. I’d like to offer training to other travel agencies eventually, so their teams are knowledgeable about LGBTQ+ travel.
The pandemic has made people think they should book that crazy holiday they’ve always talked about
Q. What holidays are selling well?
A. South Africa and Thailand are incredibly popular. Clients are asking for a range of holidays from luxury hotel stays to more adventurous tours. The pandemic has made people think they should book that crazy holiday they’ve always talked about. People are pushing themselves beyond their comfort zones. I’m working on a few gay honeymoons to Thailand and Maldives, so I will hopefully secure those soon.
I’ve planned a city break in Madrid, a week of sunshine in the Canary Islands with friends, the IGLTA conference in Milan and a backpacking trip
Q. What are your own travel plans?
A. I’ve planned a city break in Madrid, a week of sunshine in the Canary Islands with friends, the conference of the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association (IGLTA) in Milan and a backpacking trip to Hawaii, Fiji and the Cook Islands. This is in addition to wherever I go in my airline cabin crew role.
How has The Holiday Franchise Company supported LGBTQ+ travel?
A lot of my clients are in the LGBTQ+ community or are their allies. As a gay man who has been to countries where it is illegal to be homosexual, I’m aware of some of the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ folk when travelling. I’ve helped to create more conversations about this topic and feedback has been great.
The Holiday Franchise Company has now become a member of the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association to help agents working in the sector
Clients have appreciated being open without fear of judgement. The Holiday Franchise Company has now become a member of the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association to help agents working in the sector. It’s incredible. Within days of mentioning it, the head of the franchise team said they were going to become members to support me and the LGBTQ+ community. I was blown away by their support.
Within days of mentioning it, the head of the franchise team said they were going to become members to support me and the LGBTQ+ community
The team has added training modules on our learning and resource platform so that other franchisees can become more knowledgeable about LGBTQ+ travel. There are issues such as hotel beds for couples, travel insurance for those who are transgender and the need for non-binary folk to choose a gender on forms.
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