Thu, 19 Jul 2018
A career diversion into the world of beauty was not enough to lure one Newbury lady away from her true calling.
Now Jessica Munday is managing independent travel agency Triangle Travel’s new branch in the town centre and things couldn’t be going better.
Jessica grew up in Hungerford, although has now been living in Newbury for 10 years.
She attended Park House School, before going on to study for a diploma in travel services at a college in London.
The course was run in conjunction with ABTA and Jessica was based at an independent travel agents in Hungerford throughout.
After finishing the course, she began working for a company that booked business travel for Vodafone.
“I quickly realised my passion lay in actually building people’s trips,” Jessica admits.
“Business travel is quite sterile and I like the face-to-face contact with people.
“So I then went to work in Oxfordshire, at an independent travel agency, and stayed there for several years.”
Jessica then indulged her true passion and headed off to do some travelling of her own, between 2005-2006, around South East Asia, living in Bali for a while.
After her time abroad she returned to West Berkshire and began working as a self-employed travel counsellor.
“It was quite scary going from having a wage, to working for yourself at just 26-years-old,” she says. “I was the youngest in the company of around 500 people.
“It was there that I really came to understand how to market myself and grow my brand and network.”
Personal circumstances led Jessica to then take a break from her career in travel and she began working as an account manager for a number of different beauty companies.
“After two years I found I was talking to people more about their holidays than their skin care,” the 38-year-old explains.
“People had begun asking me questions about travel all the time so I knew it was time to go back.
“I knew of Triangle Travel and by this time I was living in Newbury, so I spoke to Rob Kenton [managing director of Triangle Travel] and joined in 2014.”
Initially Jessica was based in the company’s Mortimer shop, but was promoted in June 2017 when she was given the task of opening a new branch in Newbury.
Not one to shy away from things, Jessica also got married in Barbados in March this year, ensuring a jam-packed 12 months.
She now has two full-time members of staff working alongside her in the Market Place shop and says the plan now is to “just keep growing and expanding”.
“It took about a month to get the shop ready for opening,” she explains.
“This location has worked very well for us, but it took a lot of blood, sweat and tears.
“We are now just about to finish our first financial year here and we are thrilled with the results.
“We opened on June 5 and things have just grown from there.
“Newbury has given us a very warm welcome.
“We have so many interesting enquiries and we find that the majority of our clients are couples; empty-nesters looking to tick things off their bucket lists or honeymooners.”
She says her job is to “build an experience for everyone, from the moment they walk through the door, until the moment they get home from their holiday”.
“That is really integral to our business,” Jessica adds.
“And I don’t think there’s anywhere else in town that offers that to customers.
“I want to get to know you and look at your whole enquiry holistically.
“It’s all about listening to the customer.
“You will never speak to a call centre with Triangle Travel.”
Jessica says the company, which was named Top Independent Agency in the South East in association with Travel Trade Gazette, can organise any holiday required by a customer, from the straight forward to the spectacular.
“We can help with anything, but if it is something slightly different and off the wall then that’s when we really come into our own,” she adds.
“We specialise in Central and South America, South East Asia and India, but can arrange anything from a coach tour to a round-the-world trip.”
The staff are all highly knowledgeable and have lived abroad, giving them a real insight into the destinations they are advising on.
They all agreed that the buzz places to visit at the moment are Costa Rica, Sri Lanka and Cuba.
“These are places that have great wildlife, history and culture,” Jessica says.
“Certainly in Sri Lanka at the moment we are seeing some very up-and-coming hotels.
“People want to go somewhere where they can feel safe, where they can respect the environment around them and do it all in a very ethical way.”
Triangle Travel was first established in 2001 and has other branches in Mortimer, Pangbourne and Wallingford.
The company has 20 members of staff and also uses home workers, including one in Spain.
The company also organises its own trips; it has just returned from India and has already sold out the trip to Japan next year.
It is also looking to run a ‘foodie trip’ to Sicily in 2019.
Jessica adds that Triangle Travel can arrange anything from river cruises to overseas weddings and airport parking or lounges, and now also offers competitive overseas exchange rates.
She says that it is already starting to see repeat customers, helped by its proactive approach to informing customers of deals.
Looking to the future, she says she just wants to continue to grow their presence in the town – and she doesn’t rule out opening more shops too.
“We have got a good reputation with the trade and we work with companies that are helping to drive our business,” she adds.
“I really hope to see another shop open in the future.
“The fact that we are in Newbury now shows how good we are doing.
“We are really bucking the trend of shops closing on the high street.
“Physically being out in Market Place and in the high street have been a good thing for us to do too.
“We have bought branded gazebos and now run ‘meet the expert’ days.
“We can see that this has already driven about £30,000 of sales.
“We continue to work very heavily on social media as we like to show people there really isn’t anything we can’t do.”