With eShore’s 15th birthday this year, we thought now was the perfect time to catch up with our company director, Gavin Lapidus, about what he’s learned.  

From the learning curves of starting a business to future travel trends, here’s what Gavin had to say. 

 

How did eShores begin?  

When I decided I wanted to start my own business, I instantly looked to my passion – travel. I began speaking to a friend of mine, Nadine, who comes from an operations background, with my own background being in sales and marketing. After discussing ideas, we quickly realised that we wanted to approach the luxury side of travel. 

We launched fifteen years ago from her back bedroom. We were surprised at how busy we became very early on, so we rented a small office space in Rochdale and hired our first staff member (who is still with us today!). Relatively soon after, we hired our fourth person, moved into a bigger office, and have grown steadily since then. 

Over the years, we’ve gradually focused mainly on tailor-made luxury travel. As a business, we want to show our years of travel expertise and help really perfect holidays for our clients. 

 

What were the most significant learning curves at the beginning? 

The main thing I learned initially is just how much work is involved. You hear it, but until you start your own business, you don’t fully appreciate the long hours and time you need to invest to see a return.  

We also learned early on just how volatile the travel industry can be and how quickly things can change. In 2010, air travel was disrupted by the Icelandic ash cloud, which grounded all flights for around three weeks. This was unprecedented and a big shock to our business; we had to pivot quickly and pay for hotels for our travellers, working hard to rearrange flights and easing the disruption caused to our clients.  

Political unrest worldwide is also something we had to learn to adapt to when starting eShores, as instability causes worry for clients. We’ve learned to be prepared for anything, adapt trips where needed, and always make sure clients’ needs come first. 

 

What sets eShores apart from other travel companies? 

The size of our business is one of our significant advantages. We don’t ever plan to become a big call centre environment – our service is much more bespoke. We employ twenty people with experience in locations all over the world, giving us enough knowledge base to help any client while still ensuring a completely personalised, one-to-one service.  

Our service is completely tailored, with one agent focusing on one client. They get to know their likes and dislikes, and if the client returns to book again, they can speak to the same employee, meaning holidays get even easier to plan over time. Many companies have different staff for different regions, so if you want to travel across the world, you’ll never speak to the same agent twice. We believe having one agent who really understands the clients makes for a better service, and we’ve had repeat bookers for fifteen years who are testament to that!  

 

Are there any travel trends you’ve noticed recently?  

Of course, most current travel trends are related to COVID. We’re noticing numbers drifting back to Asia, as many people haven’t been able to travel there throughout the pandemic so they are keen to return. America is also huge now – we noticed booking numbers there return to pre-COVID very quickly. 

Pre-pandemic, there were many areas across Thailand suffering from over-tourism – one or two even got so bad they had to be closed down. The lack of tourism has given these local areas and wildlife a chance to recover, so recently, we’re seeing many places in Thailand open back up to great popularity.  

We have noticed some worries about crossing multiple borders when travelling, but people still want to get the most they can from their trip and see as many destinations as possible. This means we’re seeing a rise in European multi-centre trips, with people booking countries such as Greece or Italy and then exploring multiple destinations within that country. 

We’ve also seen a big rise in last-minute bookings. Many people are now booking for the next three to four months instead of the six, twelve or even eighteen months ahead that we’re used to seeing. People have been waiting to get back to travel, and there’s a real hunger and excitement around holidays right now. 

 

Do you save money by booking last minute? 

Not always – it depends on how flexible you are. If you’re set on a specific location, booking between nine to eleven months in advance will usually get you the best deals. As the holiday gets closer, the price will go up. However, if there are spaces left on flights or hotels aren’t fully booked, you can often find good deals last minute – you just won’t get as much choice in where you’re headed.  

 

What advice do you have for anyone looking to start their own business? 

If you really want to do it, just do it. Wanting to do it is key, though – you need the right mentality, and you need to be in it for the long haul. This includes all the ups and downs, being versatile in your business, and being flexible when challenges come your way. However, if you have an idea that you believe in and are dedicated to seeing it though, you can make it succeed.  

 

How have you maintained company culture as the team has grown over the years? 

Company culture is essential to us, which is why we’ve kept a reasonably small team. Nadine (my business partner) and I are still very involved in the business day to day, and we all work from the same location, which means we speak regularly and there is no disconnect.  

One thing that’s been important to us is making sure the people we’ve brought in over the years all have a similar mentality to us. Every new member we hire doesn’t just have relevant experience; they share the same values that we pride our business on. 

 

The travel industry was one of the most affected by Covid. What has changed for eShores over the last few years?  

For us, a lot of the changes have actually been positive. We hope to see more people understanding the value of booking trips through a third-party company. Our clients, both old and new, all appreciate the security offered by ATOL protection and the experience of an expert who can guide them through the booking process. I definitely think the pandemic has strengthened perceptions of what a travel company can bring when booking a holiday. 

For eShores, we had to pivot and really focus on offering as much flexibility as possible when booking trips during uncertain times. Now, we always look in-depth at all the different options to provide clients with full flexibility, as we understand how quickly things can change.  

 

Are there any significant changes within the luxury travel industry that you notice today compared to when you started fifteen years ago? 

Clients want much more from their holidays. Fifteen years ago, many people would pick up a brochure, find a hotel they liked the look of, and that was as far as their own research went. Today, most people have access to the internet and social media, which means they can see everything a country has to offer. This means they want to get as much out of their trip as possible; they want to explore, stop in other locations, and see many different aspects of an area. Even on typical, relaxing beach holidays, we’re finding people want to pack in experiences too.  

Luxury travel today is all about ticking as many things off bucket lists as possible. People are thinking, “why settle for fourteen days on a beach when there’s so much more to see and do?”.  

 

What’s the best advice you’ve received in your career so far? 

Keep calm, and don’t give up. This advice was especially valuable throughout COVID, when it became easy to lose sight of where you’re going. For us, remaining calm, being flexible and maintaining the personalised, one-to-one service our clients value us for was vital for getting through the last couple of years.  

 

What has been your proudest moment over the last fifteen years at eShores? 

My proudest moment at eShores is where we are today, considering the uncertainty across the travel industry in the last couple of years. We managed to get through the pandemic intact as a business, while keeping the key team together and working. While we did have to utilise some part-time furlough, we put all staff on reduced hours and kept people working at the same time, so the team was always together. No one was stuck at home furloughed full time, and the entire team worked hard to maintain the same excellent levels of service we pride ourselves on. 

I’m so proud of the eShores team for how hard they’ve all worked and their willingness to adapt. While this has always been the case across our team, their hard work and dedication has been invaluable over the last two years in particular.  

While it’s been tough, and no business is ever perfect, the general consensus from clients and staff alike is they are pleased with how eShores handled the pandemic. To take such an unprecedented hit and come out of it on the other side makes me incredibly proud of all we’ve achieved as a business. 

 

 

For more information on where eShores can take you, explore our luxury tailor-made holidays or get in touch to speak to one of our friendly team.