Around 10 percent of the world works in travel and tourism. We all heard the cry to #ShopLocal and support our neighborhood businesses, but what about the global picture? We urge you to rebook your travel, instead of canceling your trip. Your continued commitment to the travel and tourism industry will help support countless people and communities, and ensure that when the world recovers, these operations still exist for you to enjoy.
At Flywire, we have the opportunity to work with incredible clients in the travel industry. These are uncertain times for the world, but their resilience, innovation, and adaptability inspires us every day. We are highlighting some of those clients and their stories in our new Spotlight series. If you are a member of the travel community, we hope you find ideas to help your business weather this storm. And if you’re not, we hope you find the location for your next trip!
As the @thepointsguy so succinctly illustrated on Instagram...don’t you want to have your vacation booked when it’s safe to travel again?
Madrid & Beyond is a luxury travel company that designs trips for those who want to find authenticity in Spain and Portugal. They cater to those who want to go beyond all the cliches to reach the heart and pulse of these amazing countries, creating exclusive and personalized travel experiences that become cherished, lifelong memories.
We talked to Nigel Hack, Founder, about what makes Madrid & Beyond so special, and how they are responding to the COVID-19 restrictions on travel.
What makes Madrid & Beyond unique in the space?
We provide insider’s access to a whole range of fascinating individuals from all walks of life, from local artisans to top chefs, from authentic flamenco musicians to renowned art experts, from prestigious winery owners to bullfighters, soccer and fashion insiders, amazing local guides and so on, as well as procuring a whole range of behind-the-scenes visits. In a nutshell, we believe it's all about PEOPLE; what really counts are the people that our travelers encounter, and the genuine experiences they share with them.
What’s the best feedback you’ve heard from your guests?
We love getting all kinds of feedback from our clients – it helps us plan for the future and means we know what we’re doing right and what we need to change. I take great satisfaction when clients acknowledge that they would never have had such an enriching experience if it hadn’t been for our knowledge, expertise, and contacts.
I also love reading how the vacation experience can change the mindset of younger travelers. Many a time, we’ve been told how teenagers have gone on to study languages and/or something connected to Spain.
Perhaps, ultimately though, just providing amazing memories is enough. Memories are the cushions of life!
How many guests do you typically see every year?
Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, we were planning on average 70+ trips a month in the peak seasons (700–800 a year).
Why did you get into the travel industry?
As a former history teacher with a thirst for travel, in 1998, I found myself living in the heart of Spain’s buzzy capital, Madrid. I founded the company out of my desire to show friends and family the real reason I had decided to relocate – namely, the people (“It’s All About The People” remains our strapline to this day) – and this sentiment has only increased over the years as my network has expanded.
Are you working on any new initiatives to attract and retain customers?
This month, rather than developing any new initiatives, we have been completely focused on our existing clients and partnerships. We’ve been working long hours to postpone trips, liaising with our suppliers, and reassuring everyone that Spain and Portugal will still be here for them in a few months’ time.
What has been your communication with guests that have booked for the next few months?
Like everyone in the travel industry, right now, we really want travelers to think about postponing rather than canceling their trips. A perfect vacation only comes together because of the great relationships a travel advisor has with suppliers and collaborators, and we’ve been building these in Spain and Portugal for over 20 years. If our clients can postpone rather than cancel, it means we can all play a part in sustaining those relationships for the future. Essentially, postponing rather than canceling means that the guides, the drivers, the hotels – everything and everyone that makes a vacation extra special – will be here for travelers when this crisis passes.
Are there any silver linings to this situation or projects you are working on that you haven’t had time for in the past?
Most of the Madrid & Beyond team have been in lockdown in Madrid for nearly two weeks now. It’s hard not to be able to enjoy the fresh spring air, but there are unexpected pleasures to this new routine. We’re all spending more time with loved ones, we have more time to think creatively, and we’re getting to know our neighbors! We’re all in this together, and we’re reminded of that daily – I’m sure you’ve heard about the Madrileños applauding the health service from their balconies every evening – moments like this are truly uplifting.
In light of the pandemic, do you plan to invest in any new tools or resources to help recession-proof your business?
With people all over the world stuck at home, including our colleagues and clients, like many, we are putting Skype to full use! We have been forced to work from home ,and undoubtedly that will shape our working habits in the future. Flywire is the most recent ‘tool’ that we have implemented, and once we have returned to some kind of normality, we expect it to help us and our clients in numerous ways.
What ways are you keeping the staff connected during this time?
We’re on Skype all day every day. We chat all the time and have group calls regularly too. And we’re keeping in touch with our industry partners in the USA. This week I have a Skype chat lined up with a travel advisor and her family... a kind of educational session where our kids can learn about life in Spain and the US respectively. We can’t wait to get back to normal, but in the meantime, we’re trying our best to stay in contact, stay positive, and stay passionate for travel!
Once the world returns to normal, what are you most looking forward to?
For me, it’s the simple things that I’m most looking forward to, like taking a walk in the center with my family and enjoying a beer and tapas in the sunshine on one of Madrid’s many terraces. And of course, to travel once again! It’s important for me to know our destinations inside out, so I can’t wait to get back to Portugal to see all our friends and colleagues there.
If you’d like to learn more about Madrid & Beyond, book your post-pandemic travel, or get lost on a virtual escape, please explore https://www.madridandbeyond.com/
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