Poongkodi Jose – An Enlightening Beacon for the Travelling Birds

Poongkodi Jose | Founder| Holiday Navigator
Poongkodi Jose | Founder| Holiday Navigator

Life is the journey of experiences. Perceived through the eyes of the beholder, it changes its colours. And to experience life in each of its colours, we all love to go out on our journeys. We call those days holidays, and the journey a travelling voyage.

We always crave happy memories, not unhappy nightmares. But who will become the trustworthy guiding pilot of our leisurely tours? Or who will be The Holiday Navigator?

Meet Poongkodi Jose, a shining star and the Founder of The Holiday Navigator. Before establishing the perfect travel planning company five years ago, Poongkodi had worked extensively in executive positions in tours and travel companies.

Thus, she knows the in-and-out of the tourism industry and travelling sector.

In its journey to find out ‘The Women Owning the Business Arena’, Poongkodi Jose became Insights Success’ beacon of hope and navigated us about her past expeditions, and upcoming plans for The Holiday Navigator.

Highlights of the flights are given below, for your delight.

Please give us an overview of your professional journey with The Holiday Navigator.

The idea of The Holiday Navigator started in 2017 with a lot of love and passion for my work. I enjoy planning and arranging holidays. The travel part is fun but organizing everything is lot more challenging.

We need to ensure all the aspects of the holiday from flights, visa, insurance, accommodation, transfers, and vehicle services are pre booked and arranged. It demands a lot of time to be available for the clients and ensure everything goes seamless. But when your client has successfully completed their vacation and enjoyed it, it definitely feels good.

With the support of my parents and my husband, I planned to start my own travel company that can allow me to plan my work at the same time be available for my kid and family whenever needed.

I am the first-generation entrepreneur from my family. It wasn’t easy! Although, I knew the industry and work, but had to understand and learn how to run it as a business. I started from scratch, handling very few enquiries in the beginning, and ensuring my clients had the best of experiences on their tour. The majority of our clientele is repeat and references. And today I am proud of whatever I have built-in terms of a brand or business.

The journey has been truly unique, the learning is continuous, and every day is a challenge. I officially started when my daughter was born, and today my company is as old as my kid herself.

Tell us more about The Holiday Navigator, its vision, and the critical aspects of its stronghold in the industry it is catering to.

The Holiday Navigator is all about creating perfect holidays. The vision is to create a brand that is the first choice for any travel planner. We want to cater to guests with all types of budgets from economy to luxury with a quality service. Quality is something we never compromise with. We only commit to what we can offer and strive to offer more than what is committed.

I dream to build a successful brand that organises a Women-Only tour. I have been in the industry for close to a decade and women-only tours are not regular. Now the times are changing, there are a lot of women who are ok to travel alone or be a part of a women-only group to allow themselves a little break from their busy and regular lives. I want to offer these women a safe and well-organized holiday.

We choose our vendors carefully who are genuine and have been in the business for a long time and hence provide the best services. We go out of the way to ensure that our guest has a great vacation. It is all the little things and helps you offer that enhances the overall travel experience.

For example, when one of our guests on an international trip fell sick (before covid) we got the medicines delivered to their room, they got well and were able to continue the trip. We remind the guests of simple things that they might overlook because of travel anxiety, like, carrying a change of cloth if they have a beach visit.

A little help with how to be prepared for a trip helps, making the vacation so much more comfortable. This has helped us build a great bond with our customers. This is our stronghold. As a part of the service industry, we believe that, when we offer something more than what others provide, we can sustain and also reach out to more clients.

From a business leadership perspective, what is your opinion on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on your industry?

COVID-19 has been brutal to the entire world. Travel and tourism is the worst-hit industry due to the pandemic. Initially, it all felt very depressing that the industry I chose would take so long to revive our future in the business.

But as things came back to normal with lockdown removed and travel restrictions taken off, we saw a sudden surge in the number of travellers. The good thing was even though very few were ready to travel; they were all confirmed clients.

We saw around 80 to 90% conversion rate in comparison to 20 to 25% or sometimes even less before COVID. I have just learnt to go with the flow and to hang in there and try. As the saying goes – This too shall pass.

What efforts did you take during the pandemic to sustain operations and ensure the safety of your team at the same time?

Initially, I was able to accommodate the team with half salary and when travel stopped completely, we all were just at home hoping and praying for things to get better.

I made use of this time to learn video editing and poster designing which now comes very handy when I have to promote holiday packages on social media. The whole world suddenly seemed to just come right in front of our systems. I have attended numerous zoom calls and webinars and kept myself updated with the industry news. As and how the travel resumed, we were able to manage with a smaller team all working from the safety of their home.

What is your opinion on the necessity for your company to align its offerings with technologies like AI and ML?

I agree that automation is very much possible in travel and tourism industry. We can create a platform where the guests can book the tickets and reserve a room themselves. But there is also a risk of errors with AI or not getting the right type of search results. This would lead to customer dissatisfaction.

It is more suitable for a bigger company where there is a separate team, and they are better equipped to check and ensure everything.

We are a small and growing company, each and every client and their experience with us is essential. We do not hesitate to go the extra mile to ensure everything is good. Right now, I prefer to provide my personal attention to each client and their travel needs.

As an established industry leader, what would be your advice to the budding entrepreneurs and enthusiasts aspiring to venture into the industry you are catering to?

Travel and tourism is one of the leading industries. There is definitely a drop because of COVID; nevertheless, there is no doubt that it will come back more substantial. So as an industry, it is an excellent choice to learn and grow.

I firmly believe that one needs to be passionate or love their work only then go a long way. There will be a lot of challenges and situations when you will question yourself; your passion and love for your work will help you succeed and carry on. Always be open to learning new things, the industry is vast, and every day is a learning.

Gathering as much knowledge as possible and a good network with industry colleagues who can help and guide whenever needed is essential.

Commit only to what you can offer and strive to offer more than what you have committed. This will always help you, especially in a service industry such as travel and tourism.

How do you envision further strengthening The Holiday Navigator stronghold in 2022 and beyond?

We see 2022 as a new ray of hope. It has been so far so good. It looks like the pandemic is becoming endemic. Many countries are opening up. The majority of people are also ready to travel after taking their vaccinations. After a break of two years from travel, we are expecting a boon in travellers. We are also setting up a bigger team with experienced and knowledgeable individuals and planning various packages and offers.

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