John Spencer-Ades speaks to Samantha Mayling about his diving holiday business and promoting awareness about the environment and oceans
Q. How did you get into travel?
I spent years in the corporate world, working in recruitment and training in the high-tech sector. One of my clients was The Holiday Place and after delivering training to the reservations staff I stayed on part-time, and then set up The Scuba Place in 2010.
I have been a keen diver since I was 12 and took it up seriously in my late 20s. I have logged more than 2,200 dives in more than 30 destinations. For the first time, I was selling something that people really love. I turned my hobby in to a career.
We saw an opportunity as there are a lot of companies that sell off-the-shelf dive holidays, but I wanted to do create tailor-made itineraries. I work from home in Pangbourne in Berkshire, with my wife Mona as a co-director. After joining Major Travel’s Independent Partner Programme this year, we are now in a position to grow properly.
Q. What are your memorable bookings?
The most memorable was when I met Mona on a boat in Egypt when she was a client. She is a keen diver and has been working with me for three years now.
My first booking was for a husband and wife. They went to Cuba, where they met another couple of our clients and now they book holidays together.
Q. How do you generate bookings?
Most of the business comes via my own proactive efforts. I’m well known in the scuba diving community – I go to dive club meetings and do presentations, which also generates leads.
We do not sell anything that we do not know about. We host trips too – I accompany clients on the holiday. Most clients are experienced or qualified divers, but we also do learn-to-dive holidays. We get a lot of repeat business as well. One customer has spent £250,000 on 10 trips in the past few years, and another lady has taken 43 trips in the past eight years.
Q. What sort of holidays do you offer?
We offer diving trips around the world, as well as liveaboard dive holidays, where clients can see sharks of all shapes and sizes, manta rays, crocodiles, humpback whales and dolphins. We also promote environmental issues in our newsletter, such as those covered by Sir David Attenborough and Blue Planet, and plastic pollution in the oceans.
Q. Why did you join the Major Travel Independent Partner Programme?
The Scuba Place’s parent company The Holiday Place failed in May so I went to see Major Travel’s Mohammed Rashid [marketing director] and Qasim Gulamhusein [managing director] later that day.
I have known them for years and have bought product from them. We had a meeting of minds and clicked. I joined the partnership and I am enjoying it; they make running a business very easy and I’ve learnt loads about social media.
They also placed an advertisement in Travel Weekly for me, which was good for brand awareness.
The systems are easy to use and they give me total autonomy, as well as support and advice. Major Travel helps with the back office such as technology and licensing, and I can use their staff to help the business.
I can also help other agents in the Major Travel programme with dive bookings and do more group bookings now, as they are easier to manage.
We want to do our bit to protect the ocean
Last year we dived at Magic Oceans Dive Resort in the Philippines. The waters were immaculate – very healthy reefs that are full to bursting with marine life.
We talked about the impact of single-use plastics. Magic Oceans is providing guests with stainless steel straws, as are other resorts and establishments in the Philippines.
Mona and I were spurred into action. We had been evaluating branded gifts and wanted something useful that would have a positive environmental effect.
As an albeit tiny step in the right direction, The Scuba Place now provides clients with a 100% recyclable aluminium water bottle.
As champions of scuba diving holidays, we obviously have a passion for the sea and, more importantly, conservation of this precious environment.
We are committed to combating the widespread pollution that comes from single-use plastics, and we work with destination partners and boat operators to reduce – and remove – the use of plastic straws.
We are pleased to be doing our bit for our oceans.
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