Businesses of Banyule presents Meridian Travel, Heidelberg and Rosanna
Travel adventures a sister act
Kirsty Eccles and sister Jodie Quick have been booking Banyule residents on global adventures at their boutique agency Meridian Travel since 2005. With Jodie from a HR background, and Kirsty from travel, they found their skills complemented each other perfectly for the family business venture.
The Banyule sisters have built up the local travel business over thirteen years, and now operate the agency from two stores: one in Rosanna, the other in Heidelberg.
In an age of snap-speed hotel bookings and travel deals, it’s their personal touch and professional know-how which sees locals opting for the bricks-and-mortar experience of booking their holidays and adventures through Meridian. The agency is accredited under the Australian Federation of Travel Agents – Travel Accreditation Scheme (ATAS). Travellers booking through them can have peace of mind knowing they are dealing with a credible agent. Gaining accreditation means that travel agents have to undergo rigorous checks to ensure they are solvent and trading in a professional manner, with knowledgeable staff.
The sisters run regular ‘information evenings’ at the Heidelberg branch, with the June event targeted at the solo traveller.
“It’s really just to show those who might feel a bit reluctant to travel on their own what the options are,” says Kirsty, explaining that the information nights are sometimes so busy that they have to hire a bigger space.
“Our ‘small ships’ information night in April was pretty busy, we had over fifty locals come in, so we ended up booking the church hall in Heidelberg to accommodate everyone.”
The information nights are an extra touch in an industry which has changed massively over the last decade. Kirsty says there’s still plenty of reasons customers choose to go with a personalized travel agent rather than DIY.
“Our clients are really drawing on our skills and knowledge. It’s easy to go online and look at reviews, but it can get overwhelming, especially with itineraries for a 6-8 week trip, or something you’d only do once. We co-ordinate the whole itinerary for them – cruises, flights, coaches, tours, and we really tailor it to their preferences.”
It’s also the overload of choice that makes Meridian Travel a great option for someone looking for a stress-free holiday.
“Someone might say ‘We’d like to do a tour through Europe’ – where do you start? So we ask some questions to narrow down the preferences from ten to two operators with the sorts of inclusions that might suit.”
Of course, it’s when things go wrong that you’re grateful you booked through a travel agent. If an ash cloud settles over Dubai or a volcano erupts in Bali, Meridian can do all the to-ing and fro-ing to change flights and hotels so that you’re not stranded, or worse, spending your precious last day of holidays on the phone trying to get a new flight.
Meridian also offers fully-escorted tours which have proven popular with Banyule locals. In 2016 they travelled with 81 guests to Vietnam and Cambodia, cruising on the Mekong River. This year it was Japan, but there’s more planned for 2019.
Cruising is one of their perennially-popular holidays with locals, which is why their ‘small ships’ information night was a sell-out.
Asked if she has any advice from thirteen years in business growing Meridian to a staff of nine and two shop-fronts, Kirsty says: “We focus on a marketing mix and keep that going all-year-round. We sponsor the Montmorency and Rosanna Bowling Clubs, advertise in The Weekly Review, and keep up our social media presence and email marketing with news on specials and information nights.”
Rosanna and Heidelberg