Albatross tours left vertical banner
Albatross right vertical banner

Industry HQ

Share this article

Why this travel agent decided to open a physical store in a digital age

Christine Kelly knows the ins and outs of running a bricks and mortar travel agency. But when the pandemic hit and required investments she just couldn't afford, like many others, she was forced to step away. Now, she's back in the game and talks to Karryon about the opportunities she sees in physical storefronts.

Christine Kelly knows the ins and outs of running a bricks and mortar travel agency. But when the pandemic hit and required investments she just couldn’t afford, like many others, she was forced to step away. Now, she’s back in the game and talks to Karryon about the opportunities she sees in physical storefronts.

Opening a storefront amidst the current economic challenges demands resilience and determination. Christine Kelly, itravel Camden manager, has both. 

Prior to the pandemic, the single mum co-owned a successful travel agency and was “thrilled” with how the business was going. But by September 2020, she had to leave the business.

“It was a very sad, sad day,” she recalls. 

Kelly became a licenced real estate agent and worked in property management. The money in sales had the potential to be better than that in travel.

“But was it my passion? No.”

“I know what it’s like to have a job you absolutely love and that you get up every day and you want to go to work. When I owned my old agency, for 10 years there wasn’t a day I didn’t want to go into the office.”

The path back to travel

So Kelly met with Steve Labroski, itravel Australia CEO

“Steve came out to Camden to meet me,” Kelly tells Karryon. 

“We had a chat about itravel over a glass of wine. And it was a no-brainer. I love the business model and I absolutely love the brand. They’ve been so supportive, and transitioning from home to storefront has been fantastic with them.”

Kelly was still working nine to five in real estate and then she was coming home and working in her home office doing travel overnight. 

“I was doing very long hours every day to build the business back up.”

Building the dream

But for Kelly, working from home was hard. 

“People have said, ‘Why go to a storefront model? Why have the overheads etc? 

“But I do a lot of FIT and a lot of bespoke holidays for people and they want to sit in front of you. They’re not going to hand over large sums of money without having a meeting with you or seeing you or discussing details face to face. So people were coming to my home all the time for consultations. And it became hard to distinguish between work and home.”

Kelly’s store is now on the main street of town. And it’s very visible. 

itravel Camden
itravel Camden

Prior to the pandemic, Kelly says there were six travel agencies servicing the area. Now, including hers, there are three on her street. 

“If I’m visible and people can see me, then hopefully the business is going to grow as fast as I want it to.”

And Kelly wants it big.

“Could I have grown my business at home? Yes, probably. Will it be as quick as what I’m predicting the streetfront will be? I don’t believe so. Could I have spent the rent money on just marketing online? Possibly.

“But the work that we do is really labour intensive. And there’s a ceiling that you’re going to reach (as in dollar figure turnover) before you need to start employing people because you cannot manage a $5 million business on your own without making mistakes and letting people down. 

“And I don’t have a home that I could branch out and have employees in. 

“My end goal is not small. My goal is big. I’m not putting a ceiling on it, because the sky’s the limit. So I guess I’m on a mission to prove to myself that I can do it again. And plus, I’m doing something I love.”

Travel agent Christine Kelly in her new store, itravel Camden
Kelly appreciates the support she received when transitioning from home-based to storefront.