A travel agent whose expansion plans were disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic has crafty plans for a new business to help artists and creatives.
Jo Richards, 50, who runs Tivoli Travel, is to open JoJo Blooms and Gifts in Holmfirth.
It’s a florist and a gift shop rolled into one and a two-week pop-up shop before Christmas went down a storm with local people.
Jo’s Mirfield-based travel business had branches in Lindley and Holmfirth and, when lockdown is lifted, Jo plans to open a shop in Norridge Bottom in Holmfirth, with Tivoli upstairs and JoJo Blooms and Gifts downstairs.
Jo had to scale back her ambitious expansion plans for Tivoli last year as the travel industry bore the brunt of the global pandemic.
“It’s been a difficult time but we are nothing if not positive,” said Jo. “We have to respond to whatever is thrown at us and we do what’s best for our customers at all times.”
Jo has been in travel most of her working life, starting out straight from school at 15. She’s from a family of entrepreneurs and isn’t afraid to adapt and pivot her business.
In fact the pandemic has proved an opportunity to pursue a long-held ambition to open a florist.
“JoJo is my nickname and this is something I’ve always wanted to do,” she said. “It started out that we were going to rent out the downstairs shop but then I saw this as a chance to help the small business community.
“Holmfirth is a tourist hotspot and there are lots of artists and creative people who makes things and sell them on Facebook, for example, and just do it as a hobby or to make a little extra income.
“There are so many people out there making such wonderful things – little cottage industries – yet they struggle to get their products out there and seen by the public.”
A florist in Mirfield is helping train Jo’s staff and Jo also has a secret weapon closer to home.
Not many people know that Jo’s dad Alan Wright, a retired engineer who ran his own fabrication company, is also a qualified florist!
“Don’t ask why, it’s a family secret!” said Jo. “But his garden is beautiful.”
With Jo’s bricks and mortar expansion on hold she now has six homeworkers working on commission for Tivoli. They are spread around the UK from Scotland to Chester, Batley to Milton Keynes.
And Tivoli has just been shortlisted in Travel Trade Gazette’s competition to find the Top 50 Travel Agents, to be announced in March.
“It’s all about how we’ve coped with the pandemic, running three shops, supporting clients, working all hours – and now opening a gift shop,” said Jo.
The burning question is whether we will get an overseas holiday this year – or a staycation even.
The situation is changing day-by-day but testing and the vaccine roll-out makes it possible.
“I think we will be able to get away in pockets,” said Jo. “It depends how the vaccine process goes in Europe. Some people will travel regardless if they can, others will only go if they feel confident the virus is under control.”
Jo’s tips for booking holidays right now are: make sure you have flexible terms for cancellation; make sure your holiday insurance will pay out if you have to cancel because of Covid; and stay up to date with the entry requirements, such as tests and quarantine, for the country you’re travelling to.
Jo went to Sicily in September and felt completely safe. “There were temperature checks, hand sanitisers, masks in restaurants. The staff picked your food from the buffet, even the swimming pools were open and, of course, you have the beach.
“It seemed pretty normal but we all have a responsibility to look after ourselves and each other.”
Overseas villas, which offer privacy and social distancing, are popular though can be costly.
Staycations in the UK are likely to be big again this summer and prices could soar. Jo knows of a glass lodge in Cornwall being offered for £3,500 for seven nights in August!
Cornwall is set to be the UK hotspot though remote locations in Scotland are popular too.
“UK or abroad? Nobody knows. We just have to sit, wait and be patient,” said Jo.