Beloved Glasgow travel agent shares ‘hell’ of starting business before Covid struck

All this week The Glasgow Times is featuring the six candidates hoping to be voted Glasgow’s Favorite Business for 2022.

The award, sponsored by this paper, is part of the Glasgow Business Awards organized by Glasgow Chamber of Commerce with Royal Bank of Scotland as the main sponsor.

A Glasgow woman went through ‘absolute hell’ after launching her family-run travel company in December 2019 – then earned a nomination as one of the city’s favorite businesses.

Geraldine Marshall launched Marshall Travel just before the Covid pandemic sent the world into lockdown and brought tourism grinding to a halt for the best part of two years

It was a stroke of rotten luck that could have proved too much for the fledgling business, but thanks to hard work and a personal touch the agency has been nominated for Glasgow’s Favorite Business at the Glasgow Business Awards.

Founder Geraldine said: “It was awful. I launched the business in December 2019 and we just got hit immediately the following year.

“Luckily we had a business client that needed to get to places so that kind of helped us maintain our business.

“But it was so detrimental, the travel industry was decimated. Everything came to a halt, nobody was even traveling around the UK so you couldn’t sell anything.

Geraldine Marshall of Marshall Travel

“For two, nearly three years, we could sell destinations and people weren’t as interested in traveling in 2022 or 2023 because nobody knew what was happening.

“It was hell, to be perfectly honest with you.

“As a family business, it had a detrimental effect on our personal finances and our family.”

Marshall Travel prides itself on providing a more personal service than bigger chains or travel websites, and it’s that human touch that has kept customers coming back as travel returns to something approaching normality.

Marshall explained: “My business is very much different from a typical high street travel agency, and I think with everything that’s happened with travel and Covid, people like a helping hand.

“They want to go on holiday and have that personal touch, they don’t want to be classed as a number or just another sale.

“What we do is we do all the client’s check-ins, check the Covid status and give them little extras for free like lounge access and things like that.

“So it’s those little things that make us different from the other high street agencies.

Glasgow Times: Geraldine Marshall of Marshall TravelGeraldine Marshall of Marshall Travel

“We’re finding that people are turning to us because they want that helping hand, they want to have that personal one-to-one service.

“I provide a 24-hour number for clients, they will maybe have a resort rep but we give our clients a number where they can ring me 24 hours a day from wherever they are.

“It means I’m always there with them if anything happens.

“We’re a family business, we’re not the well-known names or anything like that, we are a small family business.

“They like that personal one-to-one touch because they want a helping hand, they want to make sure that they’ve got their vaccination status and all the entry requirements. That’s definitely made a difference, we’ve got a lot of repeat clients. ”

As anyone who has traveled since March 2020 will know, keeping on top of the various entry requirements can be baffling – and for Geraldine it’s almost a second full-time job.

She said: “In Spain, for example, you need to have an antigen test if you’re not fully vaccinated but you can go to Turkey and Greece – but any of these destinations could just change at the flip of a switch.

“So it’s just been keeping on the ball with the entry requirements for our clients.

“It’s a bit of minefield, anybody that wants to go to a destination the first thing I check is the government website as well as checking with the airlines, because sometimes different airlines require different things, like maybe an app downloaded beforehand.

“It varies, it’s so hard to keep on top of it. The only way I can describe it is a bit like the traffic light system in Squid Game!

“It’s very much like that, it’s something that we laugh at in the travel industry because it could change even now on a day-to-day basis.

“The thing we always do is if the client wants to book for a destination we check it, then we keep checking it up to their departure date.

Glasgow Times:

“It’s almost a daily task, just to make sure there have been no changes.”

After what has been a tough two years for her fledgling business, Geraldine was delighted to be one of six nominees for Glasgow’s favorite business.

She admitted: “I didn’t know anything about it so I was elated but very surprised.

“I don’t think I’ve got over it yet to be perfectly honest!

“I thought, ‘what? No. This is a joke, this is a spam email or something ‘. It’s humbling to be nominated. ”

The winner of The Glasgow Times Award for Glasgow’s Favorite Business will be revealed at the annual Glasgow Business Awards ceremony, taking place at the DoubleTree by Hilton Glasgow Central on Thursday 6 October 2022, with voting opening on Friday September 2.

Place your vote for The Glasgow Times Award for Glasgow’s Favorite Business here.

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