Linley Lewis,left, and Will Hayler
A specialist in global “experiences of a lifetime”, the company offers instructor courses, gap year and career break adventures as well as camps and school events that prove irresistible to daredevils and self-improvement enthusiasts.
Founded 10 years ago by friends Linley Lewis and Will Hayler, Ticket To Ride (TTR) has been growing 20 per cent a year since 2012, currently turning over £2million and with a target of £5million by 2018.
It now employs 10 full-time staff along with 20 seasonal workers. TTR’s journey has been as eventful as the ones its creates.
Taking their own surfing adventures post A-levels as a blueprint, former schoolmates Lewis and Hayler set up the company after university with £20,000 of private investment and a business competition loan with mentoring.
In the process they got to grips with the business essentials such as industrial standards compliance and package travel regulations. Planning took two years and their first office was a caravan in north Cornwall. But their first trip hit the bullseye.
The 10-week gap year snapshot in South Africa combining surf coaching, qualifications, cultural highlights and community work costing from £500 a week remains a core product. Other destinations such as Mozambique, Costa Rica and Spain have been added as well as two surf schools and offices in Exeter and now Newquay.
“When we started, the gap year travel industry was booming, but the global recession and tuition fees swiftly changed the way students and the public perceived them.
The pair founded the company 10 years ago
When we started, the gap year travel industry was booming, but the global recession and tuition fees swiftly changed the way students and the public perceived them
The vocational element of our experiences became crucial,” explains Lewis.
“Then we had to look at shorter time frames so our special experiences are more compact and can be fitted into schedules.”
But as Hayler says: “It is one thing having a business idea and registering a company, quite another having a product that stands the test of time.
It is how you deal with the challenges that sets you apart from rivals.” Innovation was TTR’s response when “the recession made it tough for smaller companies to remain sustainable,” adds Hayler. However, the pair discovered that the difficult marketplace threw up unexpected opportunities.
“We realised there were merger and acquisitions ones and they have been the platform for our development ever since.
Without the global financial crisis it is unlikely we would have been able to grow in this way,” says Lewis, also recalling how a loss making kitesurfing business led them to Exeter, now their HQ.
Skiing adds more value compared to surfing and four years ago TTR moved into an area it had been eyeing and brought ski instructor business Basecamp into its fold.
Ticket To Ride have surf schools in both Exeter and Newquay
Now snowboarding consolidates the mountain coverage. “Boardsports enthusiasts share the same ethic.
Our customers can book snow and surf experiences under one roof,” says Hayler.
Courses for its snowboarding venture, designed by experts, are held in France, Canada and New Zealand so offer a year-round revenue for the company.
Figures from travel industry trade body Abta last winter suggested the UK snowsports market was twice as big as previously thought, with almost two million holidaymakers planning a ski or snowboarding break.
The company also employs 10 full-time staff members
Lewis says: “Whether it is families taking surf lessons at our schools in Cornwall, women learning to stand on paddleboards with their friends, or professionals looking for active holidays where they can master a new skill, we offer it.”
TTR is considering international licensing and partnerships and more links with schools.
The conventional word “holiday” is not one you are likely to hear there, though, but with more short surf and snowboard trips planned, who knows?