The spirit of collaboration inspired two travel consultants to create a new space, open to all independent entrepreneurs, to work, lean on peers for ideas and support – and even buy a suitcase.
The Travel Studio officially opened earlier this month in Mountain Brook, Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham. The storefront, which houses workspaces for travel advisors and a store selling luxury travel-related items, was designed by Anne Liles, of Anne Liles Travel, and Ragan Stone, of Ragan Stone Travel.
“We wanted a place where we could all come and be able to talk and collaborate together and bounce ideas off each other,” Liles said. “It’s just good in this industry to have that.”
Liles and Stone are both affiliated with Departure Lounge, the host agency based in Austin, Texas. Its founder and director, Keith Waldon, played a key role in the creation of the Travel Studio.
Initially, Stone said, she and Liles planned to find offices they could rent together. Waldon encouraged them to make sure they had a showcase with visibility to get their money’s worth with exposure to their community.
“We were just focusing on office spaces,” Stone said. “He really pushed us to think about what else we could do.”
When they found the larger space they were in, the advisors started looking at retail and realized “this could be a place for more than just the two of us and really create a bit more of a community. among the other ICs here in town”.
The Travel Studio is located in a 1,200 square foot former restaurant nestled among other businesses. There’s a bar next door and a cafe and bakery across the street, all of which are locally owned, Stone said.
The front of the space is dedicated to retail, with luxury travel products including luggage, handmade sunglasses, handbags and hats. The Travel Studio also offers more practical items, such as sunscreen.
The back of the store is where collaboration happens. It has open workspaces for travel counselors who pay to rent the space, as with other workspace models, and a conference room for meetings. Stone and Liles handle the business side of the operation.
everyone is welcome
Although Stone and Liles are both Departure Lounge ICs, any travel counselor can rent space at the Travel Studio, regardless of affiliation. For example, Stone said, the workspace currently houses a subsidiary of SmartFlyer and an adviser from Internova Travel Group.
“I don’t think pre-pandemic would have ever been an option, really,” Stone said. “I mean, maybe so, but I just feel like so much has obviously changed in the travel community. Everything is so different now – in a good way.”
Most CIs working at the Travel Studio already have a well-established volume of business. Potential clients who enter the space can choose to work with one of the advisors there.
Key to Liles and Stone’s plans for the Travel Studio are events. Some of the brands behind the products they offer have expressed interest in hosting in-person events in space, as have travel providers like hotels.
For example, says Liles, a DMC from Africa wants to visit in the fall. Advisors would associate this with a designer who creates hats and scarves.
“It allows people to have a little more accessible way to interact with travel,” Stone said.