60 Seconds With

“Don’t compete, be different” – 60 Seconds with Martin Skelly, Founder, Travalue.ie

By Business & Finance
04 February 2020
Pictured: Travalue founder Martin Skelly

Martin Skelly, founder, Travalue.ie

Martin Skelly is the founder of Travalue.ie, an award winning travel agency in business for over 40 years. He is also the founding member of Worldchoice, UWalk.ie, and SantaHoliday.ie

What was your first job?

My first real job was with Bord na Mona in the mid 70s. It was five days a week, 9-5, and the money wasn’t bad.

I remember when I left to join our fledgling family business, Navan Travel, it meant a pay cut and a challenging change in work life balance. Looking back it was the best career move imaginable.

What would you regard as your greatest achievement to date?

It was reacting to the changes in the travel industry.

We changed from being a local travel agency to effectively becoming a “National Travel Marketing Company.” Our industry’s monopoly for airline distribution diminished and our suppliers became our competitors. Our customers enjoyed an abundance of new choices and we needed to carve out new niches so that we could be relevant to them. This change was taking place in the teeth of an unprecedented economic downturn which saw about half of our industry disappear. We rebranded to Travalue.ie and all of Ireland became our target market

It was both scary and exciting and a new step into the unknown. We used social media to retain existing customers and to market specific products.

Making that transition was my greatest achievement.

In three words or less, how do you define success?

Integrity, determination, and an open mind.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Don’t compete, be different.

It resonated in my head when we decided to set up UWalk.ie and specialise in walking holidays and again with SantaHolidays.ie

How do you motivate yourself and your staff?

Staff first. We keep everyone informed about our plans and activities at our weekly meetings. We set individual and business targets which are both challenging and achievable. We train and up-skill all the time and we encourage everyone to keep up to speed on our products.

I want to see new ideas taking shape and becoming a reality. 

How do you relax?

I am lucky because the travel business has given me lots of opportunities to travel both on business and for relaxation.

Relaxation is really all about good company. I play golf (badly) in Headfort Golf Club in Kells. I love to travel and to get under the skin of somewhere new. I am constantly in awe of mankind’s creativity and I love to sample how different cultures evolved and what these differences have achieved.

What’s your motto?

Cry once.

What are your aspirations for the future of the business?

Be relevant and offer value for money. Everything we sell, regardless of the price, must give our customers value for money. We will always need to be proud of our service levels and our knowledge.

There will always be a profitable role for people and businesses who excel at what they do.

Look for and find products that our customers want. This means developing in-house expertise so that we have the ability to identify and implement opportunities in a changing business environment.