Join John and Carolyn on a journey on the beautiful island of Menorca, and find out how they started their walking holiday business from nothing and developed it over the past 15 years
How do you start a successful walking holiday company when you’ve never been on an organised walk or even been a member of a walking club? The answer? Well you approach the project with no preconceptions and with everything on the table.
I’m John Devine of Balearic Outdoor Holidays and 16 years ago, along with my wife Carolyn and kids, I left The UK to come and live on the beautiful and unspoiled Balearic Island of Menorca. I wish that I could say that we came here with a view to launching a walking holiday company, but we didn’t…
Exploring our new home
We arrived on the island with a with a view to early retirement and watching the kids grow up following a successful career in the advertising business. Having no work to keep us busy, we filled up our time by learning the local language and above all exploring our new home from top to bottom.
As a consequence of this, we fell even more in love with our beautiful new home. When friends from the UK came to stay, we loved taking them for a walk and a combination of lovely deserted beaches, the green countryside and tours of timeless villages always left them enchanted. The 3 course lunch with wine that we enjoyed at the end of our efforts was always much enjoyed as well.
A broken dream?
We’d been able to retire early by investing our savings with a good friend who was a successful fund manager. It turned out that he was neither of these things and to cut a long story short, we were left having to start again and with the vision of early retirement becoming a broken dream. Now here’s the thing….. it was the making of us.
The birth of Menorca Walking Holidays
Once we got over the shock of returning to the working classes, we began to think about how we could make a living in our new island home. As you can imagine, we went through the usual ideas of buying a bar or working in property management etc, but none of these ideas really ticked any boxes.
Then one evening over a couple of glasses of red wine, Carolyn remembered that our British friends had enjoyed us showing them around Menorca and how well the post activity meals had been received. From here, it was only a hop and a skip to decide we could turn this into a business and Menorca Walking Holidays was born.
The advantage of a blank canvas
Whilst having always been keen outdoor people, neither Carolyn or myself had ever been members of a walking club or even attended an organised walk for that matter. This could be viewed as a disadvantage. However, it allowed us to build our business with no preconceived ideas or by being pale imitations of other walking holiday companies. I even scanned the internet for guiding qualifications or associations that we could be affiliated to, but found nothing. Thus, we began our walking holiday business with a blank canvas.
Our guests are our friends
The first thing that we made sure of was that we would treat our guests as friends and not just clients. We’ve always been blessed with lots of friends and we tried to view our work as an extension of our social lives. Secondly, we tried to think about what we would have expected, were we to book a walking holiday.
These are some of the things that we came up with:
- A personal meet and greet at the airport
- No outside guides. Always us although sometimes with back-up
- Meals at different local restaurants during the week. We’ve never really enjoyed eating at hotels much and wanted to give our guests an authentic and genuine feel for our island.
- A backup vehicle tracing the route in case someone needed a lift
- Numerous back out points along the walk
Maybe our advertising background came into play here, but we came up with a copy line that we still use to this day: Walking holiday to be enjoyed not endured.
Staying true to our principles
We’re 15 years old as a company now and have changed our name to Balearic Outdoor Holidays. This reflects our expansion into Mallorca and Ibiza plus organising painting, cycling and ‘learn Spanish’ holidays on our home island of Menorca. Whilst we’ve expanded over the years, we’ve always tried to maintain the same self-imposed principals and these are maybe why we currently have an over 80% repeat rate.
- We don’t look at what the competition does. We do what we think our guests enjoy.
- We provide the service. We don’t use outside guides who may not share our passion.
- We treat our guests as friends and always try to provide a genuinely personal service.
An open invitation
We’re always looking to extend our network of friends and would love you to come and join us in order to judge for yourselves the difference when a company is established by doing its own thing.
All the best and we hope to see you some time!
John and Carolyn
PS: If you love the idea of a guided walking holiday, you’ll find a sample of what we do on our page walking holiday on beautiful Mallorca.
PPS: Also see our website for more walking, painting and activity holidays on the islands of Menorca and Mallorca.