Jason Holland, founder of Travel Simplicity, talks about what being a ‘travel butler’ means in today’s travel industry
Q: Talk to me about what you do for Travel Simplicity?
We are ‘travel butlers’, not agents, so after the initial ‘what?!’, most people love the idea and are thrilled to work with us. I’m the owner and a travel butler myself, and currently I work on marketing, research, design, planning, reservations, networking and more.
Q: So, what does a typical day at work constitute for you?
We purposefully work with a smaller number of people, in order to get to know them much more intimately and create unique experiences. We spend a lot of time during the day researching and building relationships in person, or on social media. We talk with our contacts around the world, follow up with current clients and constantly look for new and exciting experiences for them.
Q: How do you see our industry evolving? Are we experiencing a renaissance?
As travel professionals, we’ll have to focus less on cost and more on service. You must know what you’re worth, and have the confidence to share that with clients (and potential clients). The travel industry isn’t going away — it’s just changing.
Q: Do you think time-pressed millennials will be the fastest-growing segment of our industry?
They are for us. Our biggest group of clients is time-starved professionals who value service and personal attention. In a world of bad customer service, take time to listen.
Q: What would you say is the biggest challenge you face in the business?
No matter how well things are designed, we’re not the ones actually picking our clients up from the airport, or positioning the perfect flower arrangement in their room. Relying on others to provide a truly hospitable experience, and allowing us to look good instead of trying to compete, is of paramount importance. As an industry, we need to have better technological tools. The GDS is great, but it needs an overhaul. When TripAdvisor and Expedia become better outlets to answer some industry questions, there’s a problem.
Q: What are some of the best opportunities facing our industry today?
We need to set ourselves up as the travel experts. If you’re not one at the moment, learn the industry. Then share your knowledge — within the proper bounds. Good travel agents will continue to be valuable to their clients. Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate your business model, pricing or marketing. Continue to grow with the current changes in technology and implement them yourself. Social media is important for relationship-building and for sharing information. We work in an exciting industry and we need to share that excitement. Show the smiles and joy!
Q: What would you say is the most valuable benefit of being an ASTA member?
Networking with other industry professionals, followed by the fact that it’s an organization that loves to help and believes in us. Knowledge is very important and ASTA is the best disseminator of legal information to the travel industry. Without its efforts in government, and communication to us, we’d be lost.
Q: Whom do you admire as a leader? Has someone helped to shape or mentor you?
A former colleague, Jay O’Brian, was one of the most influential role models I’ve ever come in contact with. He always said, ‘See what the competition is doing and do everything different. Be unique.’ That philosophy resonated with me and we try to live that every day. We work to let our uniqueness show and to listen to people because we care. That seems to make all the difference. travelsimplicity.net