Neil Waller and James Street went from Bath university students holidaying in Marbella, to successful entrepreneurs in a matter of months with their network of online travel guides, www.mydestinationinfo.com.
The 26-year-old former Bath Business students realised the demand for an accurate and relevant holiday destination information site while trying to research places to eat and party for their upcoming holiday in Marbella. After noticing the surprising lack of online resources, they decided to set up a travel guide website for the holiday resort in 2006. In their summer in Marbella, they managed to successfully secure 33 clients to advertise on their website.
This immediate interest, despite their basic website, lack of degree and previous reputations, urged them to capitalise on the moment. James and Neil decided to drop out of university to focus on the business and rapidly expanded their online guide to other countries.
With other mainstream competitors such as Time Out and Lonely Planet, Neil and James sought to provide an online one-stop-shop with a difference; all websites are run by local experts who live and experience the cultures of the places they write about. This, not only, ensures up-to-date and relevant information, but creates a way for close relationships to form between the company and businesses in the area, resulting in the best deals being negotiated for customers booking through the website.
After the initial expansion of the online tour guide network, James and Neil started to sell internet franchises to clients. This was not always easy, as when they started out internet franchise was a very new concept, neither of them had degrees and both were very young. However, both partners utilised theiryouth to show ambition and used their lack of degree to urge them to work harder on their business as there was little alternative.
After overcoming the financial struggles of starting the business and sustaining the travel costs, the company now sells franchises for between €15,000 and €40,000 for a five year contract. Mydestinationinfo.com has now secured over 70 franchises and is continually growing. This, combined with the low capital costs of running an online business, has resulted in the company currently raising £500,000.
The secret to their success is their unique local recruitment in places of interest, their user friendly website and the services it offers: country overviews and information (such as visas and vaccinations), user reviews, travel planners, travel tips, articles of interest for inspiration and even the facility to book and organise trips from the website.
For this efficient service and innovative business, Neil Waller and James Street have reached the finals of a number of major competitions such as Online Business of the Year in the StartUps Awards 2009, Young Entrepreneur of the Year in the GBA Awards 2009, winners of the UKFAST 'Travel' Digital Entrepreneur of the Year Awards 2009 and the 2010 UK Trade & Investment London Exporters Award. This financial, practical and commercial success, with over 7 million visitors to the site each year, makes their aim of becoming the dominant player in the travel industry, an achievable one.
Article written by Emma McWhinney