Best Companies Survey Upgrades Ocean Holidays from ‘One to Watch’ to ‘One Star Accreditation’

Ocean Holidays is delighted to announce it has achieved ‘One Star’ status from Best Companies, improving on its previous accolade of being ‘One to Watch’ in 2021. Considering the difficulties the travel industry has faced since 2020, demonstrating year-on-year improvements in workplace engagement is an especially rewarding achievement. 

Scoring a total of 694.3 points, an increase of 35 points from 2021, and just 2.2 points away from reaching 2-star accreditation. We believe this breakthrough is a testament to us putting employees’ well-being at the heart of all we do, and we shall keep striving to incorporate their feedback into positive changes for the future.

Harry Hastings, Co-CEO of Ocean Holidays commented “We are extremely proud to have been upgraded to a One Star accreditation, and we’re thrilled our employees recognised the improvements we have implemented since 2021. To us, Best Companies is not just a survey but a springboard for honest and open discussions about how we can continue to place employee engagement at the forefront of our business.”

“As we emerge from the most challenging time in the history of the travel industry, we recognise there will be further difficulties ahead, but we take comfort in knowing our incredible team are behind us as we aspire to be the best company for both employees and customers alike.”

Beyond employee well-being, Ocean Holidays also scored highly with regards to giving back to the community, with 96% of staff agreeing that the company encourages charitable activities. To this end, for every survey completed we donated to our chosen charity of Haven House Children’s Hospice, raising £1,280. This is in in addition to the £47,000 that was raised for Haven House during 2021. 

For more information visit – Best Companies | Ocean Holidays Company Profile

Ocean Holidays appoints Angus Bond as Strategy Consultant

ROMFORD, Friday 29 April 2022: Ocean Holidays, the long-haul holiday and luxury travel specialists, today announces the appointment of Angus Bond, ex-Virgin Holidays, as a Strategy Consultant on a contract basis. The existing leadership structure of Ocean Holidays remains unchanged, with Angus joining in a consultancy capacity, working closely with the rest of the team.

Angus previously held several diverse senior roles throughout an 18-year period at Virgin Holidays and Virgin Atlantic, where he was responsible for various commercial, e-commerce and digital functions and for successfully transforming working practices and leading experts to work collaboratively as high performing teams.

In his new role at Ocean Holidays, Angus will be tasked with providing counsel and strategic recommendations across key areas of the business to drive future growth, namely across Product, Marketing, Tech, and Sales. He will support the business in evaluating further growth opportunities and distribution beyond its core offering, reporting into the co-CEOs.

Ocean Holidays, the largest Florida holiday specialist in Europe and the fastest growing travel business in the UK, recorded its busiest Easter period for bookings in its 19-year history. The business is now set to expand and diversify its product offering both through the trade and direct to consumer, with plans in place to grow existing sectors outside of Florida , including but not limited to California, New York, Mexico and the Caribbean, as well as Cruise and Stay. Similar to its Florida programme, holidays will be available as far as 36 months in advance with guaranteed pricing.

Harry Hastings, Co-chief Executive, Ocean Holidays, commented: “We’re delighted to welcome Angus to the team. He brings with him a wealth of knowledge and expertise, and this appointment is evidence of our continued growth and success as the fastest growing travel company in the UK.”

“We’re focused on continuing on this growth trajectory and Angus’ consultancy will be invaluable as we continue to diversify the business to make travel experiences the best they can be for our employees, customers and partners.”

Commenting on his appointment, Angus Bond, Strategy Consultant, Ocean Holidays said: “It’s an exciting time to be joining Ocean Holidays with the brand poised for the next chapter in its growth story. The business showed its resilience during the pandemic, which is testament to its staff and culture the leadership have created here. I hope to broaden the existing expertise within the team, and support the business in its ambitions to further scale and diversify.”

DREAM JOB: Theme Park Tester shares top five insider tips.

After 21 days and a packed itinerary, Ocean Florida’s Official Theme Park Tester, 27-year-old Alexandria Adamson from Glasgow has now returned home from her role to share her top five insider tips for exploring the exhilarating theme parks on offer in the sunshine state and crowns her favourite park…

Alexandria’s top five insider tips for exploring Orlando’s theme parks:

1. Get app ready

“Before you head to a park, check what apps you may need. Most of the parks have their own apps to help you navigate during your time there and make the most of it! You can find useful information like wait times and maps as well as the entertainment and food on offer.”

2. Remember there is more to parks than rides

“Although I love an adrenaline rush, there is so much more to the parks than just the rides! I would recommend taking the time to explore the parks and especially make time to try the food and drink, this will also help you to break up the day so you’re not just spending time queuing for rides – just because one ride has the longest line doesn’t mean it’s the best attraction in the park either!”

3. Book, book, book!

“As part of planning ahead, book reservations at the restaurants you’re keen to try. Theme parks can get crowded and busy, meaning it can be really difficult to secure a table at the best restaurants. If you’re eating on the go, make the most of mobile ordering if possible to save time for enjoying the attractions!”

4. Go resort hopping

“Although the parks are great, make sure you spend some time resort hopping if you can. Resorts offer something different to the parks and you can usually find some of the best bars and restaurants. My personal favourites on Disney Property are in the Disney resorts, Enchanted Rose at Grand Floridian, Jellyrolls at Boardwalk, and Trader Sam’s at Polynesian need to be on your list! The same can be said for Citywalk, I think the food and drink options available here are amongst the best in Universal Orlando Resort.”

5. Become a pro-planner

“I’ve mentioned the importance of planning ahead already but it is so important to pre-plan before you venture out to Florida, it can make or break your trip! Orlando tends to be in a ‘busy period’ for most of the year so the parks can be overwhelming at times, with so much to try the key is planning ahead. 

“Take note of what you want to do, book dining and check out any seasonal events which may affect or disrupt your plans. Preplanning and booking as much as possible before you even arrive will make your trip run smoother.”

Alexandria’s favourite park revealed

Sharing which park and attraction took the top spot for Alexandria during her role, she said: “After deliberating and looking back at my itinerary, my favourite two days of the trip were those spent at Universal Resort Orlando. I love the layout of the Universal Resort and the ability to jump between the two parks and their CityWalk area is a really unique offering compared to other theme parks in Florida.

“The experience of the resort is truly magical and immersive and I think this is best represented with Diagon Alley in Universal Studios which then flows into Hogsmeade and Hogwarts in Islands of Adventure with the help of the Hogwarts Express to join them together.

“My three favourite rides are Islands of Adventure – The Incredible Hulk coaster, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and the brand new Jurassic World VelociCoaster. These are three unbelievable coasters with unique distinctions from one another and well-told narratives which only add to the magic. This makes Islands of Aventure one of my ultimate favourite parks for rollercoasters.”

“I would recommend visiting Islands of Adventure both in the day and at night if you have the chance because the rollercoasters offer totally different experiences depending on the time of day – and I always ask for either the front or back rows for an extra adrenaline boost!”

Harry Hastings, Co-Ceo at Ocean Florida comments: “We are delighted to have finally been able to send Alexandria over to Orlando to complete her role as our Official Theme Park Tester. It’s been great to see her daily updates and take a look at all of the activities she’s been getting up to during her role.

“For anyone looking to visit Orlando, definitely keep Alexandria’s review of the top parks and attractions in mind for the inside scoop!”

To find out more about Alexandria’s time in Orlando as Ocean Florida’s Official Theme Park Tester, visit: https://www.ocean-florida.co.uk/theme-park-tester/

-ENDS-

Notes to editors

About Ocean Florida

https://www.ocean-florida.co.uk

Part of the Ocean Holidays group, Ocean Florida is the leading independent Florida travel specialist.

Ocean Holidays Group is a privately owned, family-run business founded in 2004 by two sets of brothers: Daniel and David Ox, and George and Harry Hastings, who are still very much active in the business today.

From its humble beginnings, Ocean Holidays Group has grown significantly year over year and according to the latest ATOL report, for 2022 Ocean Holidays is the largest growing travel group in the UK, when compared to pre-pandemic levels. The group consists of three unique and distinct travel brands:

·        Ocean Florida is Europe’s largest independent Florida travel specialist thanks to its proprietary CRM technology and offline customer acquisition model. Specialising in package holidays to Florida with a focus on villa rentals, Ocean Florida will send more than 45,000 passengers to Florida in 2022

·        Winged Boots is a personalised travel management company that specialises in worldwide luxury travel for leisure and business clients.

·        Ocean Beds is the largest worldwide provider of Florida vacation home rentals to the global travel trade.

With headquarters in Romford, and an office in Orlando, with 24/7 availability, just a few miles from Walt Disney World Florida, Ocean Holidays Group continues to innovate and evolve within the travel industry.

In 2018 the company was named the fourth fastest-growing travel company in the UK by BDO and won ‘Best Holiday Company to the USA’ by the British Travel Awards in 2018, 2019 and again in 2020.

Optimisation is the key for success for the travel industry

GUEST POST: Travolution asked Daniel Ox, Co-chief Executive of Ocean Holidays, to discuss why Optimisation is the key to success.

As the travel sector continues its recovery, the industry continues to experience a period of transformative change. Business models are being adapted to be fit for purpose in the post-pandemic world and travel bosses are looking at ways to future-proof their businesses. 

However, there are some lessons I’ve learned over the years around best practise for operating a travel business which are still relevant in today’s environment, and which will stand the test of time. Ocean Holidays is now the fastest growing travel business in the UK and our desire to continually optimise, even the minutiae, has been pivotal to its success. Below are my top tips for optimising a travel business. 

  1. Do sweat the small stuff

I remember when I was 15, at the dinner table of a friend’s house, discussing with his parents what jobs we might be interested in when we left school or went on to university. His dad went on to explain his role as a consultant for Ford Motor Company. His job was to walk the factory floors and find ways in which he could optimise the manufacturing process. He explained that the smallest of changes to even a workers’ walking pattens on a production line could save the company hundreds of thousands per year by either saving overheads or increasing output.

Fast forward a few years and my day-to-day looks similar in many ways to my friend’s dad’s, just swapping out factory floors for call centres and the manufacturing process with the customer journey. When looking to optimise a travel business, even the smallest modification can make a huge difference – whether that’s related to online booking conversion, call generation, customer service, or any other aspect. 

2. Break down fundamental business processes into key stages

Optimisation comes in many forms across different areas of the business, but naturally we started our journey at the front-end website, constantly looking to generate more and more sales leads for our agents – and we did this very successfully. 

But with sales success comes operational burden, and so, as we matured, we started to apply the same A/B testing logic across other areas of the business. We broke down fundamental business processes into key stages, following the customer along their interactions with us, from start to finish. 

Breaking down each significant part of the business processes and overlaying these areas with data allows you to see where the biggest points of KPI influence are within the journey. It’s usually this point at which to identify opportunities to 2X, 5X or even 10X a company’s key KPIs in a very short period, dependant on the operational change or technological requirement.

An example of this is the quote process. By testing the response time of sales agents to customer enquiries, you will quickly conclude that responses sent in seconds, as opposed to just one hour later, can result in a 2X conversion outcome.

3. Set up a dedicated optimisation team 

Creating a dedicated optimisation team of an eclectic mix of stakeholders across the business from tech, marketing, operations, and sales, and bringing this group together on a regular basis, can really help to move the dial. 

The results of these meetings should be a mixture of operational change, technological development and policy making. The quicker these changes can be rolled out to test, the faster your metrics will increase. Of course, as your business scales, these optimisations have a more profound impact on margins.
Identifying optimisations can be very exciting, and very quickly you will have a long list of projects. But almost as important as identifying optimisation opportunities is the management of delivery to the business. The best way to do this is using a scoring methodology against each opportunity.

There are lots of methods used for scoring project management or technology timelines, I.C.E being a common and useful one; Impact; Confidence; and Ease. At Ocean Holidays we use a form of I.C.E, but also layer in further scores for: Sales Impact; Automation impact; Customer Experience Impact; and one of our newer scoring metrics, ESG Impact. By scoring each potential optimisation, it gives you confidence that you’re delivering the biggest outcomes in the shortest amount of time. A skilled project manager needs to be able to balance small impactful projects that may take days, against long-running projects that can take months or even years.

At Ocean Holidays we obsess over the continuous optimisation of the customer journey which I believe has played a major role in making us the fastest growing ATOL holder in the UK. I’m sure within your business there will be multiple optimisations that can 3X or even 10X your KPIs over time. It’s just a case of identifying them and planning the quickest route to delivery. 

The evergreen appeal of the Sunshine State

  • Europe’s leading Florida holiday specialists Ocean Holidays announces a record Easter for bookings to the U.S state, experiencing a 65% increase compared to 2019
  • UK travellers are on average spending £1,500 more than in 2019 on luxury upgrades for their trips this Easter to enhance the holiday experience
  • Villa demand surges with an increase of over 10% on 2019 as consumers seek privacy

Florida has been through a transformative period over the past two years, with domestic migration to the state increasing significantly throughout the pandemic.[1] With Brits now able to travel to the state unimpeded by restrictions, Ocean Holidays has recorded its busiest Easter ever in its 19-year history.

For many, this will be the first Easter they have been able to travel abroad since 2019 and Brits are seizing the opportunity to treat themselves to a long-haul trip. The UK’s fastest growing travel group,[2] Ocean Holidays, has experienced a 65% increase in bookings to Florida for Easter 2022, compared to 2019. Travellers are also spending over £1,500 more per trip than they did in 2019 during the same period, indicative of Brits’ desire to make the most of their holiday abroad.  

“We’re seeing Brits flock in their droves to longer-haul destinations such as Florida, seemingly making up for lost time following a heavily disrupted two-year period. We’ve seen an incredible 65% uptick in bookings to the state, and as a result this is our busiest Easter period to date,” comments Harry Hastings, co-chief executive, Ocean Holidays. “Over the past few years, the Florida tourism landscape has drastically changed. Where Florida might once have stood for Disney World, Sea World and Spring Break, today it’s more like a holiday of lifetime on steroids.”

PROOF OF POPULARITY

According to ABTA, the USA is second on the list of top 10 overseas destinations people plan to travel to in 2022, climbing from third in 2021.[3] Almost one in five (18.1%) of people plan to travel there this year, with New York and Florida among the most popular destinations.[4]

In 2020 Florida overtook New York with its market share of all oversees visitations, growing from 23.8% in 2019 to 30.3% in 2020, while visits to New York dropped to 21.6% in the same timeframe. Meanwhile, Florida has also overtaken California in the list of US states travellers from the UK and Ireland are most interested in, taking it to the second most sought-after holiday destination behind New York.[5]


[1]https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2022/03/net-domestic-migration-increased-in-united-states-counties-2021.html#:~:text=The%20share%20of%20counties%20that,in%20the%202020%2D2021%20period.

[2]https://www.ocean-holidays.co.uk/

[3]https://www.abta.com/news/abta-reveals-most-popular-destinations-2022-travel-testing-requirements-ease

[4 https://www.abta.com/news/abta-reveals-most-popular-destinations-2022-travel-testing-requirements-ease

[5]https://www.ttgmedia.com/news/new-research-shows-increased-interest-in-lesser-known-florida-destinations-32484

EVOLUTION OF FLORIDA AND FRESH APPEAL

Florida is no longer just about retirees, Spring Break and Disney. More than 33,000 New Yorkers packed up and moved to Florida during the pandemic, and many are making the move permanent[1]. Given this new influx of tourists and residents, and the subsequent boost to the economy, tourism in the state has been forced to evolve to meet this unprecedented demand by diversifying its products to meet the needs of the new demographics.

We’re seeing a trend towards experience-based, twin-centre holidays. This means combining destinations, such as a Disney theme park on-site stay with a villa stay, or a Gulf Coast Beach extension. Some travellers are also going further afield and twinning Orlando with New York, Vegas and other popular US destinations to make more of their time in the States.

SURGE IN VILLA HOLIDAYS  

There has been a fresh surge in demand for villas, accelerated by the pandemic as people sought their own private accommodation to avoid other people in hotels. Now, over 35% of Ocean Holiday bookings made for Easter 2022 are villa holidays, an increase of over 10% in comparison to 2019.

The demand is such that Ocean Holidays is expanding its villa portfolio in the region by over 150% by the end of 2022, offering new accommodation in increasingly visited areas such as Bear’s Den Reunion, Solara, and Sonoma.

With the fresh surge in demand, coupled with travellers finally travelling again after waiting for years, comes a higher level of service expected. “Over the pandemic we’ve looked at ways to optimise the customer experience, by evolving how our staff work,” comments Harry Hastings, co-chief executive, Ocean Holidays. “Customers now can check into their villa online, and head straight there from the flight, something that was not possible before. All of our staff are trained in concierge services, so that when in Florida customers can speak to one of the Ocean Holidays team locally 24 hours a day based at our welcome centre 10 minutes from Walt Disney World.”


[1] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9815601/More-33-000-New-Yorkers-moved-Florida-pandemic.html