Rachael Higgins based in the West of Ireland joined us in 2008. With more than 25 years’ experience in the travel industry, she decided to leave her agency role and set up her own business working remotely in County Mayo.
Hear from Rachael in her own words on the business she has built.
What made you decide to set up a business from home in rural Ireland?
It was mostly a change in personal circumstances. Our first child was less than a year old when I started my business. As a new Mum, I found returning to the office for regimented hours difficult. I had also seen a shift in client’s expectations and requirements from a travel consultant – they needed more time and personal attention but, working in a town office that was open to the public, meant it was hard to give them what they wanted.
Also, I noticed that not every client seemed comfortable sitting in a public office, where perhaps their neighbour could listen to what their summer holiday plans were. So, working from home was the perfect solution for me and them – I could chat to them privately at a time that suited them, and equally I got to be around for so many of my children’s milestones that I would have missed otherwise.
What support did you receive from family/friends/other businesses?
They were all incredibly supportive! Family and friends were particularly supportive (and still are!) at spreading the word about my business, and mentioning my name when conversation is about holidays. Small rural communities have always been fiercely loyal to local business, and I am so grateful for that.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about moving out of the cities and working in Rural Ireland?
It’s a big change, but very rewarding! Your clients become your friends, as in my experience people in rural Ireland really appreciate the personal touch and are very welcoming and supportive.
Put yourself out there, engage with the community and share what you do. During lockdown, I was able to take part in some Local Enterprise Office training courses (LEO) which helped with my networking and getting to know more entrepreneurs in the community.
What has been the most challenging experience in the past 18 months?
For me, the most difficult part has been the ever-changing entry requirements for different countries once borders re-opened. At times this has been tricky, and so many clients that I have had travel during the pandemic have commented that they would have found it too stressful to try and navigate on their own. Equally, the support we have had from head office in Cork has been so re-assuring for any little wobble I have had!
Are you feeling positive with how the travel industry will recover?
Absolutely. We have seen many trials in the 26 years I have been in travel, and whilst this one has been the most challenging, the desire to see the world and experience new destinations and cultures never waivers for most…If anything, lockdown gave us the chance to appreciate these opportunities that we have and plan more adventures for the future.
I would also add that many found a new appreciation for the value that having a trusted travel professional can bring – I am getting lots of calls from new clients who don’t want to book online anymore, they want someone to hold their hand from the start of the booking process to the day they come home!
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