York County couple hopes to grow custom travel niche
While travel is in the name of his business, time management and an experience are what Jason Holland sells.
Four years ago, he parlayed his passion for destination trip planning into a part-time business. Two years later, that Fairview Township company, Travel Simplicity, became a full-time gig.
"Ultimately, it's about saving people time and stress," said Holland, who runs the custom travel agency with his wife, Sandy.
The Hollands consider themselves travel butlers. They bring a personalized touch and literal white-glove service that is rare in the travel industry.
The bulk of travel agents can customize vacations using a standard package as a base, and they're commission-based. Tour operators also offer custom trips but typically focus on a particular destination.
Travel Simplicity focuses on the people — who they are and what they like — before building any custom itineraries.
"It's more about the relationship than it is the destination," said Jason Holland. "We get to know them. They just have to know what they like."
There is no box, Holland said. The only limitations are budget and the physically impossible.
"It's something different. We hoped there was a market for it," he said.
There is, but so far it's been somewhat limited. The company has about 40 to 50 clients — mainly picked up through referrals — but it's still running in the red. The goal is to start turning a profit by the end of the year, the Hollands said.
In order to do that, Travel Simplicity continues to network locally and abroad. The company also looks for growth in its add-on services to "take care of everything" it possibly can to make it easier for clients.
That list includes expedited passports and visas, foreign currency exchange, concierge help, a smartphone app to contact live interpreters when traveling abroad, in-home and after-hours consultations and at-home savings on electric and gas services to allow for more money to travel.
Oh, and they also sell luggage, eye masks, travel blankets and pillows, as well as noise-canceling headphones for travel. While customers are away, Travel Simplicity also can arrange concierge vehicle maintenance services, pet sitting and plant watering.
"We are always looking at new services to add every day," Holland said.
House cleaning and babysitting services are in the works.
"Generally, we save someone 80 to 100-plus hours of work, 100-plus emails and up to two hours of phone calls — oftentimes to another country," he said. "Some of (the extras we sell) is a little income, but nothing is a big help. We're offering because it helps our clients."
Each custom trip can take up to 40 hours of planning. Travel Simplicity makes money by charging a percentage of the cost of the trips it arranges. The fees are on a sliding scale.
"I think it's the right time for something like this," said Sandy Holland, who is a clinical consultant at Pennsylvania Counseling Services and helps her husband in the evenings and on weekends.
She was the one who encouraged him to start the travel business. He had planned the couple's honeymoon to Thailand, plus other trips to China, Japan and Australia.
"We kind of caught the travel bug," she said. "It was how we took a break and unwound."
Every year the couple would save up their money and pick two weeks for a dream vacation. But with a young business to support, those personal trips have dwindled. Most are now related to work as Travel Simplicity continues to foster relationships with various vendors around the world. The company has seen growing demand for destination weddings.
"Our whole lifestyle changed," Jason Holland said. "We had to cut back on going out to eat and spending money on other things that we used to do quite a bit."
The couple sold a Mazda Miata and home theater system worth as much as the car to help with business expenses, which include promotional materials, online marketing and memberships tied to industry networks. The Travel Simplicity motto is: Do it well or don't do it at all.
"The whole point of what we do is take care of our clients as personal travel butlers, regardless of local or international. We can create a custom design in their backyard if they want," he said.
A recent AAA survey found that 66 percent of U.S. adults planned to take a leisure trip between Memorial Day and Labor Day this year.
Those hitting the road, on average, will go on 3.5 trips during the summer months.
The survey found that value continues to be a top priority for travelers. Nearly 60 percent ranked unexpected expenses that can make developing a travel budget difficult as the top vacation frustration.
Finding the time to take the perfect vacation came in as the second-largest travel frustration, while finding the best price for lodging and transportation was third.
More about Jason Holland
Jason Holland worked in sales and marketing for about nine years. He was laid off in 2011 from Balaton Marketing, based in Virginia, which pushed him to take Travel Simplicity to a full-time business.
Most of the company’s client base is local, though Holland has worked with people in other states, including Maryland, Alaska and Virginia, as well as Canada.
The 33-year-old is a Red Land High School graduate and majored in philosophy at Cedarville University, where he graduated in 2002.