Face to face: Sarah Mason-Parker & Bruce Martin, Travel Gossip

Sara-&-Bruce---Travel-Gossip

This month (August 2016) the company will celebrate five years in business and is widely regarded as the largest, most active and most influential online community in the UK travel industry.

The numbers speak for themselves with the Facebook group recently crossing the 7,000-member mark. Travel Gossip also has more than 12,000 Twitter following.

Here, co-owners Sara Mason-Parker and Bruce Martin reveal the secret to Travel Gossip’s success.

How did the idea for Travel Gossip come about?

Sara Mason-Parker: “I’ve always been a fan of networking and used to attend as many travel industry events as I could, which was difficult due to my being located in Worcester. After each event, conference, fam trip I would meet a bunch of fabulous suppliers and agents and would vow to keep in contact – but we never did, mainly due to our busy working days. This bothered me. Also, due to my location being so remote and based in a college as a travel agency implant, suppliers rarely visited and I had no industry colleagues to turn to for immediate advice – frustrating as both of these resources as so invaluable. I knew of other independent agents in similar situations so I created a Facebook group for us to support one another, enabling us to ask questions and share advice, it transformed into a great way of keeping in touch.”

What makes Travel Gossip unique?

Sara Mason-Parker: “Travel Gossip is made up of more than 7,000 travel professionals who hold such a diverse range of roles that there’s always someone on hand who can help a colleague in need – and the beauty of the group is that it connects us all in real time. This is particularly helpful when there’s an emergency situation; it helps us consistently deliver exceptional service and by communicating quickly it enables agents to clinch that deal while they have a hot lead.”

How has it developed since conception? – features, users, etc

Bruce Martin: “Sara had nurtured the group for three years when I became involved in the summer of 2014 and we founded Travel Gossip Ltd. I was excited to get involved as I could see that Travel Gossip had huge potential and was going to be a part of our travel lives as long as Facebook was in business. Everyone is on Facebook, so why try to create an audience elsewhere? Since that time we have launched a website that boasts travel’s only independent list of travel events and a weekly event update that goes to 2,000 subscribers. We have improved our group management and have rolled-out promotional packages for suppliers, which has proven very popular with many leading trade brands signing up including Silversea, Global Travel, Hays Travel and Tauck. Our latest development is a move into travel agent roadshows. We are hosting eight events this year and plan to announce more for 2017.

What features are the most popular and why?

Bruce Martin: The Facebook group is where the magic happens. So many travel sales are facilitated via Travel Gossip, it’s amazing to see it happen. We’re so proud of our community of ‘Travel Gossipers’.

What are your plans for developing the concept further?

Bruce Martin: Facebook Live videos will play an interesting part in the future of the group as it’s now possible to broadcast live into the group. I broadcast into the group from the Agent Achievement Awards recently and by the end of the next day the video had been seen by more than 1,000 group members; that’s really powerful.We’re also really keen to explore more ideas about live events – not just roadshows, but more social events too.

 

WHAT THE TRADE SAYS ABOUT TRAVEL GOSSIP

“I love the fact that I can ask a question and receive the answer I need in minutes. The wealth of knowledge shared is phenomenal. It’s also a great place for a debate and some much needed humour.”

Donna Choolhun-Evans, Travel PA

“Travel Gossip has now become an invaluable source of information and advice within the travel community.  You can ask a question and get an answer from a travel professional within minutes. It’s great to have instant access to the thoughts of all our travel colleagues especially in times of a crisis, like the unfortunate recent events in Turkey and Nice for example. It’s also lovely to see our renowned industry professionals assisting our colleagues that are new to travel. Whether it’s just a name you need, help with a problem, or just to share a heart-warming story, Travel Gossip has become the chat room of travel.”

Nicole Eaves, Garstang Travel

“Travel Gossip provides an excellent social media platform. It not only allows me to engage with others in the industry, but helps me to promote, sell and gain good PR to a wide travel audience in just one ‘hit’.”

Neil Crawford, new business manager, Freedom Travel Group

“I have been advising members of the Global Travel Group and Independent Options to join the Travel Gossip Facebook page since it started. It’s an excellent platform for agents and suppliers to share their knowledge, experiences, contacts, training events, incentives and of course, ‘Gossip’ that is really useful on a day to day basis. It has become the voice of the travel industry from a social media viewpoint and it’s great to see those that once watched from the sidelines, absorbing information about destinations, hotels, operators, even pleas for help, eventually start contributing advice and knowledge themselves. Outside of the ‘online world’ the Travel Gossip Road-shows have also been a huge hit and help to develop relationships with agents and suppliers that support the trade even further.”

Darren Bond, sales & business development manager, Global Travel Group

“We are a small team with a great knowledge of our industry, but with the help of Travel Gossip our knowledge swells to superb – after all, 7,003 heads are better than three! This help is at its best when struggling to think of niche operators or those small independent operators who may be able to help with the quirky enquiry we’ve received.

Kate Harris, Inspired Travel

“Travel Gossip is a great forum, not only for travel agents but for all types of Industry professional. My personal experience of Travel Gossip is it provides help and support when you require out-of-hours assistance. I have also seen posts from other agents recommending certain suppliers, which have been very informative. This type of product knowledge has been invaluable which has resulted in some great sales.”

Laura Featonby, Laura’s Travel Village

“Since joining this group I have read no end of great tips, along with phone numbers for that tour op you can never get hold of, a misplaced website address, and some hilarious tales.  As well as sharing my own advice on some posts, after 30 years in travel, I still learn something new from other posts, which is fab. Travel Gossip has become a daily read in my Facebook life.”

Wendy Donne, Hart Travel (Worldchoice)

“Travel Gossip is great for communicating with agents, especially now it has hit 7,000 members. It allows us to talk about our product to a huge number of agents who we wouldn’t normally see in stores. It’s a great way to announce incentives and we had a great response to our competition to win a place on our Vietnam fam trip.”

Andrew Turner, senior business development manager, Intrepid Travel

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