Berkshire-based Marie Rowe has been nominated for a podcast award. Juliet Dennis reports.
Q. Tell us about your business.
A. I’ve been with Travel Counsellors for four-and‑a‑half years. I specialise in personal tailor-made trips, honeymoons and city breaks. I was very clear what kind of travel I wanted to book from the start, so I only get enquiries for the exact kind of travel I want to book. I had a great start – I booked my first £1,500 holiday while on training at head office.
Q. What’s your background?
A. I spent 12-plus years in marketing. I gained a serious amount of skills that are useful to me now. I did work at an independent travel agency for a couple of years. My intention was to have a career in marketing but I knew I wanted to run my own travel business.
“I knew my clients were going to rely on me for my expertise and updates, and I wanted to keep their travel dreams alive by sharing some inspirational travel.”
Q. How do you generate new bookings?
A. I am big into networking. I am an advocate of BNI (Business Networking International) and spend two hours of my week networking with like-minded business owners. Most of my business comes from that. I got invited to join when I launched my business. It’s the best thing I ever did.
Q. Your Marie Rowe Travel Show podcast series ‘Real Adventures’ has already been featured in a list of the top-15 adventure podcasts to listen to and is nominated for the People’s Choice Podcast Awards. Why did you start doing podcasts?
A. It was very stressful when the pandemic started. We had clients to get home and imminent departures to refund or rebook. I quickly realised the crisis was not going to go away and it would impact my business. I knew my clients were going to rely on me for my expertise and updates, and I wanted to keep their travel dreams alive by sharing some inspirational travel.
I also wanted to stay visible. I have had to work harder than ever to look after my clients to retain my reputation, and to make sure I still have a business at the end of this. I like podcasts to listen to and to feel inspired; I enjoy consuming them.
“The people I have on the podcasts are industry colleagues, Instagrammers or clients. They know a lot about specific destinations and are passionate about them.”
Q. What are your podcasts about?
A. The idea is to explore beyond the brochure in popular destinations: what there is to do, how easy it is to travel, what the culture is like. It’s an audio guide. I’m not giving advice on going to the destination; it’s an overview. It’s not a sales tool; it’s not about me as an agent.
The people I have on the podcasts are industry colleagues, Instagrammers or clients. They know a lot about specific destinations and are passionate about them. We address the safety aspect of destinations, for example, Jamaica. In the one about Vietnam and Cambodia, we talk about traditional customs, such as taking your shoes off in Cambodia.
Q. Has it given you a focus during lockdown?
A. It’s given me something to do. I like creating great content to inspire people. It’s something I can do from home and it’s relatively cheap. I bought a really nice microphone that I plug into my laptop so the sound quality is good. I spoke to a podcast coach about interview techniques, things to include and how to structure it.
I have learnt as I go but have had amazing feedback and it’s helped me keep going. You can do it all yourself and you don’t need many technical skills. I really love it, and it’s not something people are doing in the industry. I’ve learnt a lot. It might be something I can fall back on in the future.
“Typically I record on Monday and publish on Friday. I have to find guests, edit it, load the sound file, send through all the channels, create artwork and send soundbites.”
Q. How much time and effort is involved?
A. I do one episode a week. I’ve done podcasts on Abu Dhabi, Thailand, Jamaica, New Zealand, Vietnam and Cambodia. Typically I record on Monday and publish on Friday. I have to find guests, edit it, load the sound file, send through all the channels, create artwork and send soundbites. It’s available on every podcast platform: Apple, Google, Spotify. To be fair, I have tons of time on my hands right now. In future, it might be a case of doing it every fortnight or not do as many.
How can a podcast help a travel agency business?
It’s a good resource. I can say to customers ‘listen to my podcast to find out recommendations or information on resorts’. Mine are destination guides. It inspires existing clients, but can also help attract potential future clients. It’s a great way for promoting referrals and is a nice way for people to connect with me on social media.
“People think they know a destination but the podcast helps them discover new possibilities and inspire their future adventures.”
Credibility is the big thing; it not only creates credibility but also visibility. The podcast allows me to strengthen customer relationships and begin the early stages of inspiring future clients. People think they know a destination but the podcast helps them discover new possibilities and inspire their future adventures.
It’s difficult to measure the amount of new business I have had as a result of it because of the current climate, but it’s increased my views on Facebook. Feedback I had from the Abu Dhabi podcast was that a lot of people thought you couldn’t drink there. I want to help people overcome their objections and perceptions of going somewhere if I can.
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