For our September issue, Irish Travel Trade News interviewed Sharon Jordan of 1STS and the following are two of the Q&A. For the full interview, see the issue out later this week – and also discover what Des Abbott, John Grehan and Gonzalo Ceballos would like to have been doing now if they weren’t in the travel business!
ITTN: What will be the most important changes in niche market tour operating over the next five years?
SJ: There’s always a demand for fresh ideas, locations and experiences. The Irish love to travel – maybe it’s because we’re an island nation in a big world – so the market is there. We just have to work together to tap it. Ocean cruising has emerged from niche to mainstream in less than a decade through clever marketing, keen pricing and word of mouth.
While escorted touring and river cruising can never be a mainstream product, I firmly believe we have a far greater market here in Ireland than many believe. The growth pattern here at 1STS has proven that. Over the next five years we will see competitors continue to enter this market, which is always a sign of growth and a welcome one – it keeps us awake and on our toes. With proven quality in all three brands, my aim is to awaken the Irish people to the joys of escorted touring and river cruising, and grow these niche products into ‘demand’ products.
Globally we will see the stronger niche operators continue to grow and, while this may not mean a dramatic increase in passenger numbers, it will mean that niche operators will compete to offer the best product available, whether that be for the best accommodation, access to sights, tour guides, coaches, ships, meals, etc. The need to differentiate from competitors will be key to growth and survival.
ITTN: If you could improve one aspect of how Irish travel agencies are run, what would it be?
SJ: The million-dollar question! In parts of America the travel agent racks brochures, gives out product information and sells holidays. The tour operator is responsible for all the administration, tickets, accounts, etc. At the end of each month the operator sends the travel agent a commission cheque based on monthly sales. If I had my own agency I would like it to run that way. It simplifies everything and leaves agents free to focus on selling and profitability.