They say creativity leads to innovation and that’s certainly true of Ross.
Having worked for over 10 years as a musical director and pianist, he decided to pursue his other passion and launch a luxury travel agency during Covid when the entertainment industry grinded to a halt.
Despite the fact that travel was also badly affected, Ross says his business, TRAVLUX, has grown to such an extent that he has recently expanded the team.
He plans to surpass £2 million in holiday bookings in 2023 and has just won New Luxury Travel Designer of the Year by Travel Trade Gazette (TTG).
So how did he kick start his business and why has it been so successful?
Ross says he has always loved travelling and planning trips and wanted to monetise his hobby.
“I Googled how to become a travel agent and was overwhelmed by all the licences and fees, but I kept digging and came across The Travel Franchise and Not Just Travel,” says Ross.
“As I had not worked in the travel industry, I needed training on systems, suppliers, and merchant systems and NJT appeared better than other companies.”
Ross trained with The Travel Franchise, launched his business in December 2020, and began using his knowledge of the world to tailormake incredible trips.
Ross has travelled the world extensively.
As a child, he was fortunate to enjoy numerous family holidays.
In fact, he remembers being 10 and tagging along to his parents’ honeymoon – a three-week cruise on P&O, then visiting Orlando and then Australia in the same year…
Ross also globetrotted the world during his music career.
After graduating from Salford University, he spent four years sailing around the world working within Royal Caribbean International’s cruise portfolio as musical director.
“Music and entertainment is my background and it’s that industry which has enabled me to travel for the last 10 years,” says Ross who has also lived in Miami and New York.
Ross also took frequent flights with a partner who worked for United Airlines and later toured Dubai, Singapore and across Europe until March 2020 as a musician.
“Before the pandemic hit I was taking 40-50 or 60 flights a year,” says Ross.
However, when Ross realised that entertainment was going to take a white to get back on its feet, he decided to use his knowledge of the world to create luxury bespoke trips.
It wasn’t long before he had a good customer base and in just nine months he sold enough holidays to achieve The Travel Franchise’s unique Money-Back Challenge – where new joiners get their franchise fee refunded if they make a set amount of commission in one year.
Ross reinvested the money and has now taken over £1 million since he launched his business.
Forward bookings are looking strong with some clients locking-in deals for holidays departing in 2024 when Ross is also hosting a Group Cruise on the brand-new MSC Euribia.
Recent bookings include a £76k multigenerational family holiday to Orlando, a £22k safari, a £15k tailormade trip to Canada and a £35k ski chalet holiday for one week (it may sound expensive, but Ross points out the package included unlimited Taittinger!).
Business is so buoyant, an old friend from his cruise days, Sarah-Lou, has joined the business.
Having worked for cruiseline Azamara, British Airways and Trailfinders, and with extensive knowledge of South Africa and the Indian Ocean, Ross says her expertise will help propel the business to the next level.
“I wanted to work with someone who has travelled as much as I have, and isn’t just a good sales person.
“Sarah-Lou was looking to remain working in the travel industry after maternity leave but her employers, Trailfinders, were not being flexible on hours. The decision was a no brainer.”
The expansion means Ross can continue to work as a freelance musician, picking and choosing his tours.
It also means he can continue to travel, on fam trips and other adventures.
“One of our biggest premises is that we travel as much as possible. We believe in social proofing, not just posting an incredible holiday image.”
“I won’t fake it. You can be so genuine and honest if it’s something you’ve actually done.”
Having been on 15 cruises in the last two years, it’s not surprising that over 60 per cent of his business is cruise.
“There’s a sense of personal satisfaction when you get to share your own experience and advice, whether it’s: do it in this order, to minimise transfer time; or stay at this hotel, because it’s close to this crab shack in Reykjavik; or you’ll really benefit from a balcony on this cruise itinerary because it’s very scenic.”
However, Ross says there must be a balance.
“Last summer I was away for seven weeks in a row, including four cruises back to back, but in 2023, with such big business targets, I won’t travel as much.
“We want to double the existing revenue in half the time.”
So what is Ross doing to drum up business when he’s at his desk in the UK?
Ross invests a considerable amount of profit back into his business. He has joined his local BNI group and has just unveiled a new website with a new travel podcast being launched in February 2023.
He has also featured in the National Geographic Traveller Luxury collection, and recently exhibited at Destinations: The Travel & Holiday Show in January 2023, which initiated numerous enquiries from the 30,000-odd visitors.
Ross also takes care to frequently check in with his repeat clients, sending flowers on birthdays to big spenders and taking the time to chat to new clients to get to know them and personalise every trip.
“Of course, high-value bookings are lovely, but it’s not just about the money,” says Ross.
“Every booking is equally special to us. It’s important knowing that each client has the best trip possible because we took the time and effort to make it perfect from the beginning.”