Tomorrow's Travel Leaders: 30 Under 30: Martin Johnson
In collaboration with TTG Digital, the ITT and Guoman Hotels, C&M Travel Recruitment set out to discover the 30 most inspiring and dynamic people in the travel industry aged 30 years and younger - the 30 Under 30.
Here we profile Martin Johnson, director at Latin Routes.
Q: Why did you want to get involved in the travel industry?
A: "I have always had a passion for travel right from a young age. I have had a number of jobs in the travel industry from working in France on a Eurocamp site for a season when I was much younger, through to being a resort representative for Crystal the Finest Ski in Meribel, France. I also had a year travelling the world before going on to work for Trailfinders for four years - there was only ever going to be one industry for me!"
Q: Why did you choose to set up Latin Routes?
A: "Latin Routes was born one day when myself and my business partner - Jessica Bain, used to work at Trailfinders together. I had done some quite extensive travel through Latin America as part of my gap year and Jess had also travelled throughout Latin America including spending six months in Argentina. At the time, it felt like a very under-represented part of the world and it was always a struggle when people came in, to find a suitable and well-priced holiday that matched people's requirements. Prices were very expensive and product choice was quite limited, which was a shame when it is such an amazing part of the world to explore.
"It was over a conversation one day (probably in the pub!) that we discussed wanting to start our own business, and the research into how to go about it started from there. After two years of research, planning and finding the finances, Latin Routes was launched in March 2012.
"We decided to specialise in Argentina as it is a country that we both loved and it has so much to see and do. We wanted to set up as a tailor-made holiday specialist so people could select where they wanted to go and we could create it for them. However we also wanted to work with people from a range of budgets, so our product ranges from simple and comfortable guest houses up to some of the finest five-star hotels in the world. We have also introduced Chile into our programme now too. Chile and Argentina work really well together - particularly when you head south to the lake district and Patagonia regions - so it was a natural expansion for us. It's a country I visited when I was travelling, but I am about to go out on an extensive trip to really get to know it well - I can't wait!"
Q: What makes your company stand out from other competitors?
A: "The first is our specialist knowledge. Only offering Argentina, Chile and Antarctica means we know these destinations inside out and back to front. I think this comes across in the holidays we put together and the depth of product that we offer. There will be someone in the office that has personally seen all of the hotels in our core programme and we have great relationships with all of our suppliers out there, which ensures that our customer experience is nothing but first rate.
"Next is that unlike many operators we actually offer a range of tailor-made holidays to suit all budgets - many people are now coming to us that have previously thought that South America was too expensive.
"We also spent a long time developing our website to really stand out. We have a great feature that lays out all the places you can visit in Argentina on a unique and interactive map, people can come along and learn all about the different areas and begin creating their own holiday. They can then submit their plans to us and we put it together for them - it is something that we feel makes us stand out and has been a great tool for us since our launch."
Q: Where do you hope to take the company?
A: "We want to continue to establish ourselves and keep increasing our bookings. We have been working hard developing and refining the products that we offer and will continue to do so, as well as continuing to find ways to enhance our website. We are very excited to start introducing self-drive options in both Argentina and Chile, as there are some really beautiful roads to explore and we think this is another thing that we can offer that will make us stand out from our competition. It's a great value option and gives you the freedom to explore as you wish [while being] backed up by us and our team!
"We are also looking into expanding into other areas of South America, with all the attention on Brazil for the World Cup in 2014 and Olympics in 2016, that would seem to be a natural place for us to expand to, but only when the time is right. We are also looking at expanding into the trade and starting to work with travel agencies offering our tours to their clients, however, again we will only do this once the time is right. Ultimately we want to make Latin Routes a market leader in the places we serve."
Q: How does it feel to be in the final 30 of Tomorrow's Travel Leaders?
A: "It feels great to be part of the 30 Tomorrow's Travel Leaders and the evening events have been an invaluable tool in coming into contact with people that I don't think ordinarily I would have met. Listening to some of the top people in travel, including the recent meeting with Peter Long, has been very inspiring and discussing my business with them has been an honour.
"I have really tried to use the exposure from the scheme to bring awareness to the business, but also use it in ways that I would never have imagined. From the scheme, I spoke at the ITT Future You Conference about Latin Routes and from that I was invited down to the university of Hertfordshire to listen and adjudicate their final presentations on contemporary issues facing the travel industry. It was an inspiring day listening to the next generation of potential travel leaders and how switched on they were to the challenges we all face.
"What I didn't expect was to find us adapting our website and making our core values clearer as a result of one of the presentations highlighting things that the new generation of travellers look for when booking a holiday."
Q: What advice do you have for other young people looking to be successful in the travel industry?
A: "I think the travel industry is possibly one of the most competitive industries in the world. You have to make yourself stand out; whether it be for the job you are going for, the holiday you are trying to sell or the company you are running. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes along and go the extra mile to ensure that when you are compared, you stand out as the best."