Jayne Drury and business partner Ann Marie Stanley first met as teenage travel agents in Liverpool in 1980. Now, 37 years later, they have just set up their own cruise-focused independent travel store in Crosby. Natasha Salmon reports.
Q. When did you start out in travel and how did you first meet?
A. Both of us started in the travel industry in 1980 in Liverpool city centre. We first met when working at different stores – I worked for WH Smith Travel – then three years later we began working together at Lunn Poly before we went our separate ways. Ann Marie moved to Marbella for 20 years while I moved to First Choice, on to Tui and then ended up at Vision Cruise in 2011. Ann Marie moved back to the UK and in 2015 I took her on at Vision Cruise as part of our reservation team. The rest is history.
Q. Why did you set up your own independent agency, Niche Cruises?
A. We were back working together after more than 30 years. With both of us having years of travel experience we realised we wanted our own business, so we came up with Niche Cruises and became a member of The Global Travel Group. On March 30 this year we opened in our home town of Crosby, on St Johns Road in the Waterloo area. We started with two members of staff and last week we took on two apprentices from Hugh Baird College and plan to keep them on.
Q. What has the customer response been like since opening?
A. The community is very supportive of local business; they have been incredible – and not just the customers but other businesses too. Having the shop has been great as people just pop in. Many say how happy they are to see an independent travel agent back in the area.
Q. What makes Niche Cruises different?
A. Our main focus at the moment is river and luxury cruises, but we have been so popular we are also selling everything from coach tours to luxury holidays. We offer a concierge service for customers and, as well as having the store, we visit people in their homes. This includes some of the more famous people in the Crosby and Merseyside area who maybe don’t want to come into the shop. We have also teamed up with Merseyside-based PokerSearch who run poker tournaments all over the world and will be providing players and high rollers with private transfers and accommodation. We have also got exclusivity with wedding venues and shows as our luxury offering includes honeymoons and weddings.
Q. Where can you see Niche Cruises in the next five years?
A. The cruise industry is growing year by year, especially river cruising, which is why we focus on it. River cruise is one of my favourite ways to travel, so selling to first-time cruisers or people who love it is always a pleasure. In the next few years we hope to expand the company, to expand the store, maybe hire some more staff – and we could open another shop. We will also be setting up our own YouTube channel to explain and look at the products we sell. We think this is important as being able to share this on social media creates a positive way of keeping the business up to date.
Jayne’s sales tips
Take time to listen: this is crucial to make sure the customer gets exactly what they want.
Give exceptional service: we make appointments out of hours to suit our clients’ busy lives.
Stay in touch: we send a welcome-home card and follow up with a call. It’s really appreciated.
1980: Jayne and Ann Marie both start working as apprentices aged 16 in Liverpool city centre
1983: Work together at Lunn Poly
2005-11: Jayne works at First Choice and Tui; Ann Marie is living and working in Marbella
2011: Jayne becomes sales and marketing manager at Vision Cruise
2015: Jayne employs Ann Marie as reservations manager at Vision Cruise
2017: Jayne and Ann Marie set up Niche Cruises
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