SuperAgent Jason Holland.
Every one of Jason Holland’s business cards is different; each is a picture he has taken in a different place, in a different country, during his travels around the world. The approach exemplifies his approach to the travel business, too: Every journey he plans is unique to the customer for whom he plans it.
That focus on the unique and special has earned Holland acceptance into Traveller Made, “a collection of the best travel design companies in the world,” he says. With 220 member agencies, just 20 of them in the United States, “it’s like a consortium, but instead of you joining them, they reach out and choose you.”
When Holland started his agency the common advice was to choose a niche in which to specialize—but instead, “we chose to specialize in our clients, for whom we will create an experience anywhere in the world they want to go.”
For a family of artists, he planned a trip to Rembrandt’s house. He is currently working on a New England road trip, where on the last night at a Tuscan villa the group will be picked up by helicopter and flown to Manhattan to see Hamilton on Broadway. Indeed, his job—for fees starting at $500—is to get to know his clients so well that he can plan a better trip for them than they could ever plan for themselves. “Many of my clients have no idea where they want to go,” he says. “That’s what they come to me for.”
Holland got started in the business as a traveler with a passion for online travel research. “I was doing all my own research and realized that for a busy professional, Trip Advisor wasn’t the be-all and end-all,” he says. “So I decided to find a different way to look at the industry that allowed me to develop a business model and branding that was completely different.”
Under Holland’s hands-on approach the business has doubled every year. “We consider ourselves travel butlers—and it’s a big education project to get the word out. We’re not a million-dollar agency but we are getting the right clients and we are growing in that direction. It’s a big educational project to just get the word out that a travel butler is an alternative to booking yourself.”
When he first started, the advice he got was to go after the Baby Booomers “because they had the money. But we found it’s the 25 to 55-year-old busy working professionals who really value our service. The industry for years has done itself a disservice by saying services are free; that devalues what we do. When you say you charge, it takes people back for a moment but when you explain it, customers get excited."
That hands-on approach doesn't stop at his research, either, it extends to his client outreach.
"You never know where you are going to find a new client," he says, "Just get as involved as you can in your community."
Holland is a board member of the Chamber of Commerce and writes an email newsletter. He's active on social media, but above all, "the biggest thing is word of mouth," he says.
"We’ve connected with local companies that recommend us—DJs, event [planners, bridal shops—because we can provide the same high level of service they do. They don’t get paid – I don’t want clients to hear I am paying them to recommend us, its strictly sitting down and talking with them. They love telling clients to reach out to a travel butler. Our tagline is Dream Big, There Is No Box. We can plan a trip for $2,000 and that’s okay—we encourage clients to start small."