Building a cruise company from scratch
By Jeremy McKenna, Sales and Marketing Director, Tradewind Voyages
Just seven months after five us sat in a one-room office, with pieces of paper and lots of ideas, we are almost ready to launch.
The growth of Tradewind Voyages has been nothing short of miraculous, all the more so because we’ve had to do so much of it in lockdown.
Although March 2nd was the official launch of the company, I’d been approached in the middle of November last year and asked if I would be interested in the opportunity to be part of a team setting up a new cruise line. Who could turn down that offer?
From that point on, I started writing down questions on a piece of paper. What type of customers would we want? What would our magnificent ship be called? What would the brand stand for? What would the website look like? What would be our commercial strategy? How would we tell our story? and so on, and so on.
It wasn’t long before I had 100 questions on that piece of paper.
Gathered in the office on that Monday morning in March were Chief Executive Officer Stuart McQuaker, Product Director Oliver Hammerer, Head of Marketing and Distribution Amanda Norey, Head of Marine John Grenville-Goble and myself.
We gave ourselves until the end of the week to come up with a connected plan.
Back then we didn’t even have wifi and had to log on to a public service in a building nearby!
But we managed it and Tradewind Voyages was up and running.
By the second week, lockdown was upon us and the office had to be mothballed. It’s only recently that we have been able to go back.
For everyone, working from home has presented its challenges, but I think it is particularly difficult when you are starting and growing a business.
We’ve saved time in not having to travel to and from meetings, but you miss the personal touch of a face-to-face meeting when you are hiring people or trying to agree deals, not forgetting building a team spirit. I think I must have done well over 800 Zoom calls!
I’d like to thank the trade for the enormous support they’ve given us during our rapid growth. People like Trailfinders Commercial Director David Ness, Mundy Cruising owner Edwina Lonsdale and TripSmiths founder and ChiefExecutive Officer Charlie Starmer-Smith were incredibly enthusiastic from the off and also freely offered us help and advice.
They immediately understood the concept of Tradewind Voyages and the fact that we will offer sustainable trips, following the wind and the sun, on the largest square-rigged sailing ship in the world.
The trade has given us an amazing reception and seem genuinely delighted to have something positive to talk about during COVID-19. I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve told me that we are the only good news story in town!
And we would not have been able to get to our present position without our fantastic staff. We now have nine people in the Sales and Marketing team and they have been nothing short of magnificent.
We decided from the off that we would hire people with a ‘can do’ attitude – a positive mindset about our plans even though the pandemic is the most challenging time in the history of the travel industry. We got that – and skill – in spades.
The ship is currently in Croatia and during lockdown, we were unable to travel to see her until the end of July.
Standing on the deck, I was blown away (excuse the pun) looking at the five masts – the ship is beautiful, elegant and classic and our guests are going to love it.
We have 30 incredible voyages from May 2021 – May 2022, starting off with a programme of 9 ex-UK sailings and then travelling East through the Mediterranean and the Suez canal, following the coast of India as we head toward Australia where we do a full circumnavigation – spending Christmas on the Great Barrier reef before we traverse the Indian Ocean to Africa and then coming back to Singapore via the Seychelles and the Maldives.
We have already had a significant number of people registering their interest and the voyages will go on sale at our official launch on November 2, exactly eight months after that first office meeting.
The pandemic has made people think about different types of holidays and how they can live and holiday in a more sustainable way. The winds of change are coming and we intend to play our part in leading that change.
I look forward to sharing more details with you as our exciting adventure continues.