Maurizio Spinetta converted his passion into a business to help people reach their travel dreams.
Maurizio Spinetta, with an Italian origin, has been in the Principality of Monaco for almost 30 years now. He is the President and CEO of the travel agency Jet-Travel Monaco, a business built on passion and experience.
Maurizio was only 17 years old when his family decided to relocate from the North of Italy to the Principality of Monaco in 1983. Since then, he has been a resident and valued member of the Monaco community.
Did you finish your studies in Monaco? Was there any challenge with your transition?
“I finished my studies in the Principality, but the language was a barrier in the beginning. I grew up in the countryside where language did not matter. Arriving in Monaco, I had to adapt quickly because all the schools were in French.”
Do you remember the main reason why your parents decided to move?
Your family had an import-export business focused on food products. Did you establish the business in Monaco too?
“Yes, we were focusing especially on meat. However, my father did not bring the business immediately here, our choice of coming here was more related to the environment for the family. He only decided to establish it in Monaco later on.”
Maurizio established one of the most important travel agencies in the Principality of Monaco. The family-owned company, Jet-Travel Monaco has offered luxury escapes and business travels for more than twenty years in Monaco.
It was a long way from the meat business, how did your passion for travelling come about?
“Since I was young I always had the desire to change my life. When I started working with my father, I knew that I wanted to change my business life too” – laughs Maurizio.
“My wife and I travelled a lot all around the world and I realised that I became more and more passionate about travelling. This is how the idea came.”
How did you develop and grow in the travel business with Jet-travel?
“The early 2000s were all about the digital revolution and the internet. I knew that I wanted to combine my passion for travelling with the internet. So, I started a website to sell cruises. Later on, in 2004, I acquired the company Jet-Travel Monaco.”
So your key focus was on cruise travels?
“We did not limit ourselves, we sold various travel options all around the world. However, more than 60% of the travel inquiries were related to cruises.”
Yet, in 2019, you decided to sell your business. Why?
“In 2019, we had the opportunity to sell the cruise travel division to a big company and then we decided to focus and invest more in a business where we can meet the customers, and advise them based on my personal experiences. It was not just about the number of bookings, it was about the human interactions as well.”
Throughout your many years in the travel industry, have you ever experienced anything like the Covid-19 pandemic?
“No, never before. At the beginning of the pandemic, travel was limited but still possible. However, as soon as some countries started to close their borders everything became more and more complicated. For example, repatriating our clients from countries like New Zealand required multiple steps in travel. Australia and Dubai also decided to close their borders for air transit.”
In 2020, people experienced countless travel restrictions which ended up with cancellations and changes of travel plans. How did your team handle this?
“The first month was extremely hard for us. Not just because of the cancellations but also because we couldn’t organize new travels. We like to travel in our minds and we love and enjoy making our clients happy. We had to start to cancel all the summer travels. You can imagine how challenging that situation was” – remembers Maurizio.
“However, I feel blessed because I have a very good team in place. We decided to call back all the clients individually, helped them on a personal level and we followed them back even after. Looking back at the beginning of the pandemic, I understood that I have such a great team that were able to assist and support our clients in the best way possible.”
After a successful rise until 2019, did your business struggle in 2020?
“In 2019 we grew 40% in a single year. Obviously in 2020, we had different numbers and we had to cancel a lot of reservations from April on. Yet, our clients deeply appreciated how we managed the situation and how we helped them find solutions and reimbursements, being one of the few agencies to do that, especially in the internet business travel.”
Among many others, one of the most frustrating things was during the Covid-19 pandemic, that flights were not refunded, only rebooking or vouchers were allowed. Also, by losing the flights one lost the hotel reservation fee as well.
“Yes, this was a big challenge for many. For this reason, we decided to step in and we started negotiations with all the airline companies. As a travel agency, we were in a better position to find a solution and fortunately, the law was on our side. In our business, we put a lot of importance on customer satisfaction. It was a hard start, but thanks to our insurance policies and our various negotiations with hotels and airline companies we were able to find the best solutions and satisfy our clients which they deeply appreciated.”
Do you think you made a change?
“It is often hard to be motivated in such a situation, but we always strived through positive feedbacks. From the very first day that I bought Jet-Travel Monaco, I wanted to sell my passion and experiences, and I wanted to show what travel is in a good way. It is a completely other world when you can travel and gather experiences, and I believe in the past twenty years we continuously excelled in our mission.”
Did people book travels during 2020?
“Yes, since many people have a relatively small living space in Monaco. After the lockdown, in June we started to sell trips again. For most of the families we offered villas in France, covering the French Riviera from Nice to St Tropez, and in the Var. Renting a big house with a significantly large garden was the most reasonable choice for many of our clients. In the summer we also sold a lot of trips to Greece and Polynesia.”
Do you see any change in the way how people book travels?
“Absolutely. Nowadays more and more people like to book through traditional agencies and less via the internet, due to the many problems clients faced with buying trips on the internet and the lack of service they experienced during the pandemic. They need guidance and answers to make a good decision with their travel plans. In respect with the past, today we must consider the difficulties of travelling, where the rules are continuously changing. My team provides an excellent service, we are up to date and we inform our clients on the best solutions to travel. I cannot emphasise enough that we are in a small country, where human relations are key and for this reason, we are open all day to help our new and existing clients.”
What do you think, will business or leisure travels start first?
“In the past, we served both the business and leisure travels. However, due to the new situation, I believe it will be immediately the leisure travel.”
Why is that?
“Business travel will need more months to recover because now most of the businesses started to use digital platforms such as Zoom and Skype for their long-distance communications. This changed the way because we are in a temporary era of video conferences. I think we have to be in a very normal situation to get back to business travels.”
While most of the businesses do not take the risk to expose their employees to potential Covid-19 infections, there will be some sectors where travel will still be a must-have.
“I have to admit though, that human relationship is important for businesses as well. Eventually, companies want to meet with their top clients, or in sectors related to production, they need to see the factories and plants.”
How do people travel in Monaco? Is there any preferred way that fits the Monaco lifestyle?
“Many of our customers like to tailor their travel experiences and they often travel with private jets. But we also cater to people who work in Monaco. They usually travel with commercial airlines.”
What are the typical travel locations that the Monaco residents seek out?
“The Principality is a very interesting market because here people travel for passion. Most of the travellers have a relatively good budget and the average is looking for luxury and high-end hotels and services; lucky for us this is what we excel in. I would also highlight that Monégasque people travel a lot.”
That’s good for business.
“Indeed. We like to suggest many new destinations to motivate them to go and see new things and discover new experiences.”
Do the residents have any favourite locations?
“I would say there are a few seasonal locations. For instance, Asia is in high demand during Spring. People love to travel to Japan and to see the cherry blossoms. During summer people like Greece, especially Santorini, Mykonos, and in the winter period Mauritius, Polynesia, and Costa Rica are among the top choices. Dubai is always in high demand. We are focusing on the organization of many trips for Monaco residents to visit the Monaco stand at the Dubai Expo from October to April, with special prices.”
Personally, what is your favourite travel destination?
“I like to discover all countries around the worId. I especially love Dubai and the West part of the USA, Hawaii and California. I also have a deep passion for cruises, in fact I have been on more than 80 cruises. Every now and then I enjoy doing a long week-end on islands like the Maldives and Mauritius.”
Do you have time to travel?
“I always make time. Even if it is a short trip I like to go to different places. Few days are usually enough for me to get an idea of the location.”
You mentioned that most of your clients appreciate your experience-driven advices.
“It is not just mine. I always make sure that all of my team travels constantly. So when a client comes in, we can advise on the specific locations. For example, if you want to go to Thailand we can advise where, how and when. During many periods for example it is rainy there and nobody wants to spend a two weeks holiday sitting in a hotel room.”
What would your suggestion be for travel planning, given the fact of the many cancellations, lockdowns, and uncertainty?
“We expect that many countries will request the vaccination passport. This will make travelling easier because hopefully there won’t be an obligatory quarantine anymore. Currently, it is hard to predict things but by the end of spring we will have a much clearer view.”
Do you think travel prices will be high for the future?
“We already have this conversation with our clients and we always suggest to make early reservations. The way air operators work has changed a lot. They have less staff which results in smaller aircrafts and less capacity. Hotels were also forced to let go of staff. Since there will be not enough employees to follow-up with the high demand, the travel costs will be higher, especially for those who leave the booking to the last minute. It will take time to serve all the demands in all the destinations.”
Do you think Monaco or the world supports enough the tourism industry these days?
“We are grateful for all the support we received from the Monégasque Government. In the beginning, it was challenging because the support did not start immediately and it seemed that the focus was more on the restaurants. But in the end, the Monégasque Government helped the local businesses in the travelling sector a lot.”