We work with ski resorts in Italy and Spain. | Phoenix Media Mallorca
As Travel Buddy closes its doors after 15 years in business, what is next for Adam and Liz?
How did you and Liz come to be in Mallorca?
We were both working as reps for Thomson in 1996 in the south of the island, although we didn’t start seeing each other until the next year. I remember the very first time I got here we all got off the transfer bus from the old airport and we were dropped at Papis. Everything revolved around that place! Nobody had a mobile phone and we’d all just meet there. I worked the summer and then I stayed for the winter and did the Young At Heart groups as well. We had to go on a training course to learn how to ballroom dance, line dancing and play Whist. We had loads of Brits coming to the island back then, and they would come for a month, or longer, and many of them were widows. Golf was really popular as well then. I had a couple with me who were dance leaders, and they would work in uniform, and we had a Chaplain on the team as well, and we had a couple to lead the Bowls. We were a big team of 30, the winter in the 90s in Mallorca was still very good for organised groups. Liz was in Tenerife for the winter, and then the next summer in Mallorca we started seeing each other.
I was sent to work in Egypt as a Nile cruise guide. We were based in Luxor and guests would fly in and do a week-long cruise. We would do excursions to all the famous temples. I’d literally been there two weeks, and I was on a bus going to a temple with all the guests. Suddenly, there were machine rifles firing! It was one of the first terrorist attacks in the area. We all threw ourselves on the floor of the bus as it got out of there as soon as possible. The next morning we were evacuated on a Britannia flight, they called it the 999. I remember going up and down the aisle in the plane asking where everyone was from to work out how to get them home. I was still wearing my yellow Thompson coat. When we got back to the UK I had a couple of days off and then I got sent to Benidorm of all places! After that I got promoted to team leader and started working on the Freestyle holidays in Mallorca, they were like the 18-30’s concept. We dealt with a lot of different incidents, I think one summer we had seven balconing deaths, and there were hotel fires, thefts, all sorts of things.
Which was tougher, 18-30 holidays or a terrorist attack?!
We could be responsible for at any point 5000 guests in the resort, and we had a big team. We would take the guests out every night, boat parties, bar crawls, waterparks. We would be taking maybe 20 or 25 coaches filled with people to these events. The job got more demanding when Liz and I had our first son and moved to a house in Sineu because I was in Menorca during the week and coming back at weekends, so she was effectively a single parent. Then I got promoted again and they wanted me to work in Florida, but didn’t want me to take my family. So that, and the changes in the travel industry meant that we started thinking about setting up our own business, Travel Buddy.
What was the Travel Buddy concept?
We set up in 2007. We knew there was a demand for support to do police reports, help people who had problems in the resort, if they had been thrown out of their hotel for example. And I think that’s how we first met Tanya because she was working as a receptionist in a hotel we worked with. We would have all these kids just waiting for us in the morning outside of the office with their suitcases! We also built a really good bond with the British Consulate helping people with lost passports and getting home. Our business partner Steve would spend summers here and then winters in the ski resorts and that is how we came to the next part of the business, which has now really taken off.
It seems like you have had to constantly adapt to the changing travel industry.
Yeah, definitely, things have changed again, people can book their own excursions directly for example, they don’t need help from Travel Buddy to do that anymore. So that is why we have decided to close our Travel Buddy service in Mallorca and concentrate on the ski industry instead. You would be surprised to know how many people who live in Mallorca go skiing in the winter. We knew we needed to bring in another pair of hands to work on the business, so we got Tanya involved and now she and Liz are the people who tailor make the holidays for each of our customers. Every single person who enquires about a ski holiday has slightly different requirements and it’s really important to make sure they have exactly what they would like to have. So now we have www.livignoskiholidays.com, www.skiandorraholidays.com, and www.andorrabookings.com.
Which areas do you work in?
We have two: Livigno in Italy and Andorra in Spain. We have about 5000 people travelling to Italy and we have an office and reps in the resort. Livigno is a big area, it is 7km long! Andorra is also very popular, and we expect it to grow a lot more now those direct flights have been announced. You can expect to pay anything from 1,300€ to 10,000€ for a family of four depending on when in the season you want to go. The areas are much more than just skiing though, there is so much to do apres ski, so many amazing restaurants and bars, loads of nightlife, so you can really have a holiday that suits you: if you want to enjoy the nightlife, or if you want peace and quiet, there are options for both. There’s just a great atmosphere there. Both Livigno and Andorra are tax free as well. Both are resorts. That makes it a bit cheaper for buying cigarettes and drinks and clothing. Its high end clothes so it’s not like it’s cheap, but it’s cheap for what it is.
With the news that there are now direct flights with Air Nostrum from Mallorca to Andorra, your decision seems to be perfectly timed! Is it already snowing over there?
Yep, it’s begun in Italy, and it’s due to start in Andorra soon. The season lasts until about next April.
What makes you guys different to the big ski operators?
When you book with us, you’ve got the choice of putting together your own flexible holiday, or sitting back and relaxing while we take care of it all. If you book with a large tour operator you’ll normally be restricted to a very limited number of ski schools or equipment rental shops, but with us you can create your own holiday from a wide choice of accommodation, transfer, ski pass and equipment options, ski schools and après ski, all of which are available on our site. The options you choose are up to you, but you can be confident you’ll still receive the same high level of service before, during and after your holiday. All our team have backgrounds with tour operators, and are experienced in dealing with a wide range of different situations. Our focus is on customer service so you can feel confident that you’re not just booking a holiday, you’ve also got all the support, advice and help you need from our in-resort team to help you enjoy your break. Customer service is still the key to a great holiday we think, it doesn’t matter where the customer is, it is about their experience and making sure they have the best possible time.
It must be exciting to think next summer you will have time off instead of working.
Yeah, it will be the first summer since 1996 that Liz and Tanya won’t be working in a resort! They are very happy about that!