Editor's Note: SeaScape Sailing has been working with InfoHub since February 1999. We recently talked to Diane Edwards at SeaScape about her company and her
experience of working with InfoHub.
1. How long has your business been operating, and
how did it start up?
We started in 1993, running "shareboat" sailing trips in Greece. It started from my work as a charter skipper there; I fell in love with the islands and bought our first boat.... and it all took off from there! We developed a "core group" of clients which kept expanding exponentially as more and more people went home and told their friends; it all snowballed over the next few years and we ended up buying two more boats. Three is our limit in Greece however; we don't want to lose our "seascape family" feeling by getting too big.
2. What are the main attractions of your activity in the area you operate?
The Greek islands will always have that magical image and lure, but many of them have sadly lost their original charm now. Most of the better-known islands are just mass tourist traps these days, filled with McDonalds and Irish Pubs. Besides that sailing is so much fun and exciting in itself, it's one of the few ways to get to see the islands as they used to be - the "real Greece", as we call it. The other alternative - "ferry-hopping" - is also great fun if you are a 20s-something backpacker and have lots of time and patience! But their schedules (or lack of) make travel on any kind of "time budget" very difficult; and then also one has to keep "uprooting" and moving from pension to pension. With a sailboat, we take our home with us....
3. What unique features do you offer?
There are hundreds of sailing companies in Greece & Turkey, but, amazingly, we are still the only company to offer a regular "shareboat" program, i.e. singles and couples. We do our very best to "match make" our clients, so they end up on a boat with others they will find compatible; and we don't believe it's in anyone's best interest to take a booking from a client we suspect may not be really suited to sailboat life. If we feel they would be happier on a cruise ship, we say so!
We are also very unusual in this part of the world in offering an all-inclusive package, even an onboard "open bar"! We don't believe that "unexpected extras" along the way create a happy and relaxed vacation, hence the strong emphasis on our "No Surprises!" philosophy; we are very clear about what's included and what's not.
4. What do your customers appreciate in you the most?
- The latter is a major benefit, so people tell us - knowing fully upfront what to expect, both in financial and informational terms - we have very extensive notes on how our trips work, how to get to us, ferries, flights - everything we can think of to help make the planning process easier.
- An upfront, no glossy-brochure-speak website - many people have told us it was the down-to-earth, straightforward approach which convinced them we were the people to sail with!
- Fast response times - we aim to respond to every email or phone call within 24 hours max. It's rare we don't. Information without being asked for it specifically - we often anticipate what people will need to know before they realize it themselves!
- Our personal, small company approach - we have the time (and inclination!) to get to know all our clients well. Judy spends many hours chatting with people over the phone, sending info over email, making sure they are all set up; ditto from our Greek end with any "local" info.
- Even more so when they get here! Our clients are never just another number on a booking form, our skippers live with them 24/7, and we all get to know each other very well. It's a "seascape family" feeling, not just another impersonal hotel.
- Our skippers - there is no comparison between our guys/gals, and the usual freelance skippers out here. Our guys are tour guides, instructors, big brothers/sisters, occasionally therapist/marriage counselors, etc! They look after the clients all the time, not like the local skippers, who consider that their responsibility is to "sail the boat" - nothing else.
5. Your have been an InfoHub partner since February 1999. How would
you describe your experience of working with InfoHub?
Great! Always prompt communication. Referrals have been a steady stream of clients who are specifically interested in an adventure-type vacation, something a little different and away from the mainstream - our kind of folks!
6. You have been quite successful in converting InfoHub referrals into bookings.
Our records show that you have been paying InfoHub $14 for each referral. How would you explain your success?
Immediate follow up. Information, and lots of it! Offering a package which is affordable and different to most others available in the area. Judy's great communication skills with clients. Also her personal knowledge of the area; she knows the islands, the boats, how to get there, etc. inside out. She has been out here several times herself and organized a couple of big groups, so she knows exactly what it takes to put the whole deal together.
7. How do you follow up with the referrals InfoHub
8. Is there anything else you'd like our visitors to know about your business?
We send all the information they request on their initial enquiry, and ask them to let us know if there is anything else we can tell them. We don't "bug" people after that; we figure if they want to contact us, they know where we are! We do, however, send out occasional newsletters or "specials" emails, with a note to ask people to let us know if they'd prefer not to be kept up to date. It's rare to get a "take me off your list" request though!
Our new venture! We have just added to our little family, with a beautiful and very luxurious 55' catamaran in Thailand. Not only is she a fast and fun sailboat, she is also equipped with sea kayaks, a dive compressor and scuba gear; has air-conditioner, icemaker, all the toys and gadgets! So we will be running multi-activity vacations in the Thailand / Malaysia area throughout the winter months now, both our old favourite "shareboat" trips and of course private charters too.