Marc Kavanagh, President and owner of Journeys Connect, is a seasoned travel industry sales expert with more than 27 years of hands-on experience in the travel industry and is a vibrant leadership force in group programs and business development. Marc started his career in travel at Ryanair in its early start-up days. He moved from Ireland to the US in 1996 where he worked for Brendan Tours as sales manager for the Northeast. He then went on to join Celtic Tours World Vacations, where for 11 years he was responsible for implementing the company’s sales and marketing initiatives. Prior to launching Journeys Connect, Marc was a partner and President of GCS Groups Inc., a group travel solution for several US based brands.
In Journeys Connect, he has developed and grown a successful business-to-business wholesale travel provider offering group and specialty vacation packages to destinations throughout Europe.
Travel Research Online (TRO): What motivated you to pursue a career in the travel industry?
Marc Kavanagh (MK): Growing up in Ireland, my family and I would spend our summers traveling throughout Europe. We frequently visited Spain, France, the Balearic Islands, Britain, and Greece, often spending extended periods of time, allowing us to truly immerse ourselves in the regions we were visiting. At a young age, I began to develop an appreciation and love for travel. It afforded me the opportunity to not only see new and exciting places, but to also experience many other cultures – each unique and interesting in their own way.
TRO: Tell us about your day-to-day role at Journeys Connect.
MK: As president and owner of Journeys Connect, it is my responsibility to ensure that we deliver on our mission of commitment, integrity, and excellence in everything we do. I work closely with our group sales and operations team, manage marketing, strategy, finance, product development, and of course, business development, strengthening and developing strategic relationships with our travel agent partners.
TRO: Journeys Connect works solely on a business-to-business basis: why did you decide to work only with travel agents?
MK: I have always been a firm believer in the travel agent distribution system. During the early planning stages and when considering the list of value propositions for this company, I was very conscious of the vital role that a travel agent partner would play in its success. And it became apparent to me very quickly that our business model should be business-to-business, and we should work exclusively with travel agent partners only.
Our long term goal is to continue to create long term relationships. We’ll do this by offering a diverse group and specialty product with unrivaled customer service and value. We’ll also earn our travel agent partners’ trust and loyalty by anticipating their clients’ needs and offering value!
TRO: What can travel agents expect when booking a group tour for their clients?
MK: The beginning of a long term relationship! Expertise, reliability, flexibility, as well as innovative product and services. Our group specialists will work with a travel agent to establish a group’s interests, needs, and requirements. They will ask questions such as: are they a 1st time group? Is it an affinity group or is it speculative? Is this a custom private group or are they more suited to one of our set group journeys? Land only or do they require group airfare? Once our team has qualified the group, they then start the proposal process. Typically, our agency partners can expect to receive a group proposal within 3 to 5 business days, depending on the type of group and their requirements.
Most of our group product can be confirmed with a small fully-refundable deposit, usually $300 on land. Deposits on group air vary by carrier, but are typically $10 per seat, and are refundable up to between 120 – 95 days prior. So, there is NO RISK.
TRO: How can Journeys Connect help travel agents catering to luxury travel clientele?
MK: The company has seen steady growth in smaller more affluent group travel. To assist our travel agent partners, we have developed 17 luxury group journeys in several European destinations, including Italy, Spain, France, England, Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Greece, and Croatia. All can be tailored to suit a groups specific needs. A maximum of 24 to 36 guests ensures authentic encounters, and each itinerary reveals a variety of rich and rare experiences.
TRO: Journey Connect offers exclusive Ireland wedding packages, can you tell us more about that?
MK: Journeys Connect has partnered with West Coast Weddings Ireland to create Dream Ireland Weddings, a full service destination wedding management service to Ireland. From intimate weddings for 10 or more guests to larger couture events, we provide a complete wedding service from start to finish.
We have handpicked a stunning collection of unique Irish wedding venues to create the most magical occasion you could imagine on the beautiful island of Ireland. Venues such as Ashford Caste, Dromoland Castle, Muckross Park Hotel, and Ballyseede Castle to name but a few.
Our personal wedding planner in Ireland will take care of every detail and is always on hand to guide the bride and groom through the entire process. Every detail is carefully planned and supervised. We take care of the legalities, the ceremony, photography, floral arrangements, the wedding cake, wine list, menus, place settings, favors, entertainment, and all the other finer details.
Working with the travel agent, our group specialists will coordinate and arrange all travel for those who want to share this special day with the bride and groom, including: round-trip air from the USA, accommodations, group transfers or car-hire, and sightseeing excursions.
Also, it’s important to note that recently Ireland voted by a huge majority to legalize same-sex marriage, becoming the first country in the world to do so by popular vote. We can now organize and plan same sex weddings on the stunning West Coast of Ireland.
TRO: What aspects of Journeys Connect do you wish more travel agents knew?
MK: Our diverse group product offerings across Europe, our expertise in customizing specialized and unique group itineraries to inspire, our guaranteed set departures in Central and Eastern Europe, and most importantly, that we work hard to deliver on our mission. Our long term goal is to create long term relationships, to earn our travel agent partners trust and loyalty.
TRO: What is on the horizon for Journeys Connect?
MK: We constantly evaluate and analyze the travel marketplace, identifying trends in group travel to Europe. We are seeing growth in the luxury group market, and especially in smaller multi-generational, experiential type groups. We also see tremendous growth and potential in groups wishing to truly immerse themselves in the destination or a region within a destination for cultural experiences, perhaps including a theme such as culinary, wine tasting, a spa experience, or a special interest such as an automobile enthusiasts group journey to Germany or Italy, a James Bond themed program in England, or a Game of Thrones film set experience in Ireland, Iceland or Croatia.
Based on our analysis, we are always working to develop product to cater to these trends in group and specialty travel. For example, we recently partnered with an organization called Good Food Ireland, and have created some new and unique culinary packages to Ireland. The special itineraries are designed for groups of 6 to 24 guests. Good Food Ireland is the only all-Ireland brand standard for the Irish food experience. All approved member businesses are passionately committed to using Irish ingredients and showcasing the food of the country. Each is independently inspected to ensure that standards are met and maintained for all members and most especially for our customers.
For more information on Marc Kavanagh and Journeys Connect, visit them online at www.journeysconnect.com.