Away From The Ordinary: A Pandemic Survival Story

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By Glen L. Moyer. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.
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We’re all familiar with the saying, when life gives you lemons – make lemonade. In 2020, the Corona virus gave the travel and hospitality industry worldwide, including in Scotland, a veritable orchard of lemon trees. With domestic and international travel shut down almost overnight, those in the travel business faced a very uncertain future.

Tourism is big business in Scotland. According to Insider.co.uk, An estimated 14 million people visit the country annually and spending by tourists accounts for 5% of the national GDP and the industry accounts for more than 7% of employment in Scotland. Not surprisingly tourism and hospitality took a huge downturn when the Corona virus decided to visit – and stay, putting Scotland in a year long lockdown.

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Like so many other small entrepreneurial businesses, Away from the Ordinary found itself in a fight for survival, needing to find a way to stay in business and weather the storm. That would be no easy task because, as it’s name implies, Away from the Ordinary, is not your ordinary travel agency. Fully 70 percent of its business comes from clients in the USA and the experiences offered cover the gamut of all that is Scotland; from private after hours tours and over night stays in a castle, to hiking, biking, canoeing or horseback riding across the stunning Scottish landscape, from bespoke whisky tastings and private distillery tours, to ancestral and historical site visits, to a round of golf or dining at Michelin starred restaurants - It’s luxury travel with a very personal touch.

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Away from the Ordinary’s bespoke travel offerings cover all the experiences you could hope for in Scotland, from hiking through the stunning scenery, to historical site visits, varied whisky experiences, golf (of course), after hours tours and overnight stays in castles, and fine dining on Scotland’s amazing larder. (All photos courtesy Away from the Ordinary). Click on any image to enlarge.
Raised in Western Scotland, Founder Aeneas O’Hara is more tailor than travel agent – measuring, cutting, stitching, and fitting a travel experience as unique to you as a custom tailored suit of the finest Scottish Harris Tweed. O’Hara enjoyed a successful career in Financial Technology and while traveling the world, the beauty and magic of Scotland never left him. He returned to found Away from the Ordinary with his wife, to sustainably share the wonder and majesty of Scotland with travelers from all around the world. With Scotland in lockdown however, it was time for a new business model.

Along with Michael McCuish as Director of PR and Partnerships, North America, O’Hara settled on technology of the times (ZOOM, etc) and another iconic Scottish product, whisky, to guide Away from the Ordinary through the travel shutdown. The pair launched what has since become an award-winning online whisky tasting series, keeping the business healthy through these online cultural exchanges rather than in person travel experiences.

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Away from the Ordinary founder, Aeneas O’ Hara (left) and (right) Michael McCuish, Director of PR and Partnerships, North America.

One year on, the company is about to launch bespoke gin tastings to its online offerings while, (as Covid is gradually being curbed globally with vaccine rollouts and continued social safeguards), being cautiously optimistic they will soon be back in the bespoke travel business. Once the world returns to “normal” the newly developed online offerings are expected to remain as a part of the company’s personalized offerings.

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Five colorful gin tonic cocktails in wine glasses on bar counter in pup or restaurant

Online whisky and now gin tastings will remain part of the bespoke experience offerings from Away from the Ordinary even when international travel returns.

KEY POINTS:

04:59 - 2020 Was shaping up as the best year yet for Away from the Ordinary

06:30 - Initially the travel halt was expected to be temporary

08:10 - The pivot to online whisky tastings did not happen immediately upon lockdown

11:30 - Why was whisky the chosen tool for your online program?

17:45 - Did you foresee the lockdown lasting a year or more?

19:00 - How do you capture the magic of travel in an online experience?

21:45 - How does your online whisky tasting work?

27:15 - Does this temporary focus on whisky risk alienating some clients (non whisky drinkers)?

35:20 - What is your “Watch with whisky” program all about?

41:50 - How have your various partners in the bespoke travel program faired so far?

44:05 - Will the online whisky and gin tastings remain part of your programming once travel resumes?

46:45 - Why should Scotland be on someone’s travel bucket list?

For More Information:

•Away from the Ordinary (website)

•Away from the Ordinary on Instagram

•Away from the Ordinary on Facebook

• Away from the Ordinary on Twitter

83 episodes