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Editorial blog

How To Take Your Business on the Road

03 Apr 2020

Based in Ipswich, independently owned Arena Travel is one of the UK’s leading operators of special interest holidays. For the last 12 years they have been running craft dedicated getaways under the name Stitchtopia, catering for a wide range of interests in a number of destinations. Arena Travel’s specialist brands general manager Alison White reveals the key credentials that have led to this company’s success…

“Stitchtopia provides top quality holidays in a wide range of special interests. A chance conversation with leading quilter Karin Hellaby sparked the idea of our first tour in 2008 and it has grown from there. Our tours cover patchwork and quilting, knitting, crochet, cross stitch and embroidery, but we are always keen to introduce new crafts. Stitchtopia has boomed over the past 10 years. I was recruited two years ago to ensure we can keep up with demand whilst increasing our range of crafts and introducing Stitchtopia to a new audience.

“Our experts are either published authors in their craft, known through their design collaboration with big brands or have a strong following on social media. We work closely with them to develop fascinating tours to destinations with a rich crafting history.

Many of our customers are regulars because they know we will give them experiences they could not get independently.

“I think these holidays have proven popular because we ensure that our tours have a good balance of craft activity, sightseeing and the opportunity to learn craft techniques and traditions from local people (some of these experiences are exclusive to Stitchtopia). All our tours are accompanied by a relevant crafting expert, as well as a specialist tour manager.

“Our groups are small, enabling us to ensure solo travellers are made welcome. Guests enjoy the combination of travel with their personal interest. Through sharing the Stitchtopia experience with like minded crafters, an enthusiastic expert and our specialist tour manager they quickly become a friendly group of crafty explorers. The expert travels with them on the whole tour, helping them with their holiday related project.”

Tap into the mind of the travelling crafter

“In terms of our demographic, most of our customers are female, and many are retired with more leisure time for their craft. Younger customers mainly join our UK and short haul holidays, particularly mothers and daughters enjoying their craft passion together. Non-crafting partners often join our tours, particularly long-haul where we always include visits to the main sights of the country we are visiting. We really try to cater for a broad range of needs.

“Some UK customers book one of our UK weekend retreats, short-haul tours or visits to European quilt festivals, and then decide to venture further afield from there. International guests often book without ever having travelled with us before.

“Quilting and knitting are our most popular crafts. For yarn lovers we travel to Ireland, Shetlands and Faroes every year, and the Baltic Cities have recently become very popular. Our French chateau retreats for textile or yarn crafts also sell well, it is an idyllic location and the food is amazing! On the long-haul side Japan is always popular and Uzbekistan has sold really well for us this year. Our UK embroidery retreats are also popular, being a regular event in some of our customer’s diaries.

“Our friendly and knowledgeable reservations team build up a rapport with our customers, who trust us to deliver a quality experience every time. We offer fully inclusive packages; flights, accommodation (usually in 4-star hotels) sightseeing, tips and activities. Some meals are included, or nearby restaurants are suggested so people can choose for themselves. We try to think of everything! “

Marketing and promotion

“Regarding opportunities for expansion, we will soon be launching our first dressmaking retreat, that will take place next spring and there are a few other ideas in the pipeline! In 2020 we are travelling to Uzbekistan, the Noord Groningen Quilt Show, Slovakia and Northern Cyprus for the first time. In early 2021 we will be running our first knitting tour to India in association with KnitPro and we are currently researching many more new destinations for 2021 – keep an eye on our website as we reveal more!

“Our loyal customers are hugely important to us, many of whom travel with us year after year. We keep in touch by weekly e-shots, telling them about new tours or a blog and photos of tours that have recently happened. We are also very active on social media, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and our experts also promote their tours on their own platforms. Information on all our tours is available on our website.

“Our growth has largely come from recommendations and working with great experts!

We exhibit at the Festival of Quilts, Knit & Stitch at Alexandra Palace and the Malvern Quilt Show. Shows are an opportunity to meet our existing and potential customers and for them to meet us. In terms of further promotion, we will soon be launching exclusives with Prima Magazine and KnitPro, and are proud sponsors of the British Knitting & Crochet Awards 2020.”

How to launch your own craft getaways

If you’re interested in expanding your business by offering craft trips or even holidays, here are some great ways to get you started.

Take your workshops further afield

To get a taste of organising crafting events outside of the comfort of your store, why not try taking your workshops to a different location? Local craft fairs or even taking the session outside to the local park will give you a taste of how your customers respond to this change of scenery. It’s also a good opportunity to ask if your regular crafters would be interested in a day out or a weekend trip.

Organise planned days out

Is there a craft show that you and your customers would benefit from visiting, or a museum that aligns with their crafting interests? If you’re willing to organise transportation and even the prebooking of tickets to a particular event, then this could be a fantastic way to offer your customers even more benefits. Not only are you providing a wonderful service, but you’ll also have the opportunity to be sociable with customers and build a rapport with them, which could, in turn, increase your sales figures.

Expand into weekends and beyond

Once you’ve gained some confidence from organising smaller activities, then it’s definitely worth branching out into crafting weekends and even holidays. Great ways to promote these events would be to invite an influencer along for free who would be happy to promote it on their social media channels, and to spread the word on your website and also in store. Once you start to build that community of crafters, you might find that craft getaways become an essential part of your business.

More about arena travel

Arena Travel prides itself on exceptional personal service and the small, friendly team has over 140 years’ combined experience in travel, catering for both group and individual needs and with dedicated tour managers on almost every departure. The current portfolio offers tours and trips to destinations worldwide, including short breaks, UK itineraries and farflung adventures, plus tours accompanied by well-known experts in a range of fields. For more information visit www.arenatravel.com

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