Independent travel agency ItsSo Travel’s opened its second branch in a Cambridge shopping centre by celebrity designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen.
Its features include 65-inch interactive touch screens with brochures loaded on them, destination videos and special offers to entice customers.
Paul Welling, who set up the agency four years ago with his wife Claire, said: “We have virtual reality headsets so people can experience destinations and see products and then we have a lounge area with sofas and armchairs where we go through the consultation stages with customers and they can have a drink. Then they go to one of our booking pods which are like first class aircraft seating.
“Since we set up our other store in St Ives we have had this vision that we wanted to change how people book their holidays and we wanted to create the journey of booking a holiday and we looked at how people would book at home.
“A travel store should be exciting, interactive and immersive. The booking process is always part of the holiday and it should be as exciting as the first day of the holiday.
“We have had the shop bespoke designed. We wanted to get away from the traditional row of tables and chairs when you walk in. We wanted the customer experience to be a journey.”
Former Changing Rooms interiors expert Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen cut the ribbon to open the shop and meet customers. Beachcomber tours also attended and sponsored the event.
The Global Travel Group member won a year’s rent-free lease in The Grafton shopping centre in a Dragon’s Den-style contest.
“We had to pitch for the space and out of the 76 applicants we were one of the two winners,” Welling explained. “They were impressed with our pitch for the next generation of high street travel agents.
He said he expected ItSoTravel to stay at The Grafton Centre after the initial 12-month lease.
“We’ve done figures for the next two, three and four years and we are encouraged to stay,” Welling said. “There’s no doubt that we will extend the lease. It’s a good location for us as there isn’t another travel shop in there.”
ItsSoTravel has employed four members of staff for the shop and is on the look out for one more retail location.
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