(Ambrosio’s note: I know that a lot of people are looking for online, home based franchise opportunities so I decided to do some research on this popular category. I discovered MyDestinationInfo.com and I was so impressed by its business model and growth potential. I reached out to James Street, Co-Founder of MyDestinationInfo.com, and he graciously agreed to grant me this exclusive interview. Thank you, James, for sharing MyDestinationInfo.com’s story with us.
To learn more about MyDestinationInfo.com, please check out my review of this unique online franchise opportunity.)
1. What made you decide to start MyDestinationInfo.com?
I was using some very good sites in London to find out things to do while on a work placement in the city. Neil (Waller, Co-Founder) and I knew Marbella in Spain quite well and noticed that its online presence was quite poor so we decided to create a site for the destination that we could operate over the summer.
Once this was up and running and a success, we left University and expanded the business to other destinations. It was surprising to see no consistency in the online travel guides market so even for big destinations such as Rio de Janeiro, the quality of travel information was very poor.
2. Why should someone interested in owning his or her own business consider an online franchise?
We always say we are a traditional business operating online and in fact the only big difference is that it is cheaper starting out because being online you do not have to purchase premises, furniture, and inventory, etc.
Our franchise fee gets spent directly on marketing the sites so that they are on the first page for key search terms from day one. This allows our franchisees to begin selling from day one and not have to wait for the sites to ride up the search engine rankings, which takes time.
3. What sets MyDestinationInfo.com apart from your competitors in the online franchise industry?
Online franchises are a relatively new phenomena and have not in the past been done or operated particularly well. There are very few doing what we are doing and they are terrible so you only have to look at the sites to see the difference in quality.
In terms of what sets MyDestination.com apart from traditional online travel websites such as Lonely Planet, it is our model. Having local experts in each destination with local knowledge and more importantly that local contact with the businesses make us stand out and means we have the most comprehensive information on any destination.
4. What qualities are you looking for in a prospective franchisee?
People with a background in publishing, who have worked with magazines and advertising sales, are ideal but our franchisees are from a huge range of diverse backgrounds. The main thing that binds us together is our passion for travel and the destinations we live in.
Our annual conferences are always the highlight of the year because it is like our own version of the U.N. — so many people from so many different walks of life come together and it is such a fantastic atmosphere. Check out our 2011 conference here.
The two main roles of the franchisee are writing and sales, so if you love doing one of these elements then you can partner with someone who loves to do the other. Fiona, one of our first franchisees, was most worried about the sales side of the business and is now one of the top sellers in the network. It is a bit of a cliché but the product sells itself and we are constantly striving to make it easier!
5. Can you describe the ideal city for a MyDestinationInfo.com franchise?
We do country wide franchises as well as cities but really we are very open to anywhere. We are not interested in franchising every town and village in the world but major cities and countries of significant tourist interest have to be on there.
We are doubling year on year and so in 2 years time, I expect the major destinations to be gone. Almost all destinations in the world have something they are famous for and something that is worth seeing. Some are really geared to tourists and others are not — but some people like that fact and want to get off the beaten track. We just want to have the best information available for anywhere someone would want to explore.
6. Based on your observations, what concrete steps do your most successful franchisees take in order to build and grow their businesses?
The first year is always the hardest in our business because you not only have to write a lot of initial content but you also have to make initial contact with the businesses and build those relationships.
The key bit of advice we give — and I touched on this before — is to make sure you have that great combination of a great sales and writing team. With these key people in place, then you have a great chance of succeeding. This is exactly how Neil and I operated the site in the early days.
7. What kind of ongoing support do you extend to your franchisees to help them become more successful?
This is much less of a typical franchise model where you are handed a rule book and trained and then left to get on with it. Most of our franchisees will be in touch with the office on a daily basis. We have a support team who do audits of the sites on a quarterly basis and point out the good and the bad, but both the technical and support team are always on hand to help.
8. What would you tell a prospective franchisee who wants to know about the profit potential of a MyDestinationInfo.com franchise?
The model works today and our franchisees make good money from selling listings and advertising on the site but there is huge future potential for the sites which come in the form of bookings and other transactional elements we will be adding to the site over the coming months. I would say our franchisees are happy today but see an even brighter future for the whole network.
9. Can you describe your typical day at MyDestinationInfo.com? What do you enjoy most about your job?
Managing a business means you have a million different elements to deal with on a daily basis and in a way you are a bit of jack of all trades and master of none.
We used to have the very enviable job of traveling around the world meeting all of our franchisees, so we spent large chunks of the year on the road. This was very important in the early days because no one was buying an online franchise from a company they had never heard of.
Unfortunately, we can’t afford to be out of the office for too long nowadays, but there is certainly never a boring day that goes by and we still get to meet our franchisees either at the conference or on the round the world trips we do.
10. Is there anything else that you’d like to share with us about MyDestinationInfo.com?
Very excited for the future as we are launching our new booking engine, which we built in-house and offers users a price comparison feature combined with local deals that our franchisees can negotiate. We are also rebranding ourselves as simply MyDestination.com. I am sure you will get familiar with it over the coming years.
Click here to read my review of the MyDestinationInfo.com franchise opportunity.
Click here to read my exclusive interview with Fay Jones, MyDestinationInfo.com franchisee (Marbella, Spain).