Taking a fast growth carbon reduction focused startup to 7-figures with Byway Travel’s Cat Jones (episode 397)

Cat Jones is the founder and CEO at Byway, a travel company that creates flight-free “Slow travel” holidays for its customers. Founded in 2020 they have grown so fast they’re having to turn off their marketing, and over 200 people a month are enjoying their trips.

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Getting Into the Travel Business

Several factors came into play that got Cat starting Byway in 2020.

She says she has always traveled on trains, boats, and bikes and found the experience to be so much more wonderful than flying. And after studying climate physics for her undergrad studies and taking up sustainable development for her masters, her sustainability awareness began to grow.

When she left a startup advertising company that she stayed with for 10 years, she went into Founders Factory and invested in travel companies and startups. This is where she gained a better understanding of travel startups and how they can be tied to sustainability.

When the UK went into its first lockdown, she figured that new travel habits were going to be formed with an impact on the environment. That was when she founded Byway with a focus on making slow travel mainstream.

About Byway

  • A regulated, packaged holiday company based in the UK
  • Only selling to the UK market at the moment
  • Currently operates trips across the UK, including Pan-European coverage

Byway provides slow travel trips and focuses on itineraries that are optimized for a traveler’s enjoyment.

Travel and accommodation are planned out and put together in one package. Once the customer purchases a package, Byway takes care of bookings and fulfillment. WhatsApp group chats are also created with customers so they can be updated immediately with any changes to their travel plans.

The Beauty of Personal Journey Plans

Byway’s mission is to make slow travel mainstream. What they’ve done is set up work in different regions, and curated stays that are locally-owned and operated, and sustainably-minded.

Using the trip or holiday builder, Byway captures the customer’s preferences and interests, then creates an itinerary for them. But Cat says guests can also send in their travel inquiries through a form.

PR and Marketing

Cat shares they were featured on The Guardian in November of 2020 that made travel and tech journalists in the UK take interest in Byway.

Since then, they’ve been featured in mainstream media more than a few times which meant consistent traffic hitting their site. They get great reviews from customers, which to Cat means the quality of experience they are able to provide is shifting the behavior around travel.

At the start of this year, Cat decided to experiment on growth by turning on ads, affiliates, and SEM. All their strategies worked and Byway grew even more, so they eventually decided to turn off their ads to make sure they’re still able to deliver the amazing trips they’re known for.

Educating Customers on Flight-Free Travels

Byway’s customers fall under two key psychographic profiles:

  1. Those who find this way of traveling to be interesting and exciting, and
  2. Those who focus on the sustainability aspect.

Cat says it’s the first group she would like to do a large education piece on so they’ll appreciate not only the beauty of this new way to travel but also its sustainability.

One of the things in Byway’s pipeline is carbon labeling, which will help customers see the difference between slow flight-free travels versus taking the plane to your holiday destination.

eCommerce Book Top Tip

eCommerce Traffic Top Tip

  • For Cat, it’s not about a specific channel but it’s about being vocal and opinionated across different channels.

Tool Top Tip

  • Zapier for integrating web applications and automations
  • WhatsApp instant messaging application

Growth Top Tip

  • Even when you have something that works, continue experimenting so you can learn more about your customers and your growth channels.

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