Case Study

Marvellous Escapes


Case Study - Marvellous Escapes


In conversation with Paul Tavener

I'm Paul Taverner, the director of Marvellous Escapes. Before I formed Marvellous Escapes, I had a long career in the travel industry from the age of 18, from selling holidays on Teletext to working with a number of tour operators and cruise liners in various sales and operations roles.

I've always been passionate about the travel industry. During the pandemic, it was a difficult time for travel, and I was keeping an eye on things, and I found it interesting that rail travel was still operating.

Post-pandemic, the appetite for travel was huge. People have been kept indoors and the desire to travel and experience things was greater than ever, and I saw a real gap in the market.

So, I formed Marvelous Escapes. We’re an independent travel agency, part of the Hayes Independent Group. We have access to over 400 suppliers, but our niche is tailor-made rail holidays, including Switzerland, Italy, and luxury rail. It's a really exciting and growing area, and there’s a definite gap in the market with expertise. So, that's where we fit in.


My main motivation to start my own business was to fulfill a desire and passion that I've always had to recruit people and build something that we can all share. When I was completing my MBA a few years ago, that passion just grew and grew and grew.

Along with the gap in the market that I saw with rail travel holidays, it was the right time to go for it.

The journey

The journey is full of highs and moments, where you're celebrating, and equally, moments where you're banging your head against the desk. It's probably 200 times harder than I ever thought it was going to be, but the enjoyment and the success are a thousand times more than I thought it was going to be.

There are definitely some late nights and some long hours, but I'm thoroughly enjoying it, and it fulfills my motivation to start my own business and to be involved in all the different aspects, whether it's marketing, sales, or customer service - I'm really enjoying it.

The growth curve

The growth curve has definitely been sharper than what was in our original business plan. We quickly exited the survival phase and we've become a profitable business. We’re currently at the stage of expansion. We've taken on some new full-time employees to grow the team and it's really been achieved by offering something unique.

There's a gap in specialists and experts in rail travel holidays, so we've just slotted in really well with the desire to travel and experience something different on holiday.

What we are finding is that a lot of people are switching that traditional beach holiday for an experience that's going to be more memorable for them. For example, travelling through Switzerland on all the various different panoramic trains through the Alps. So, it's thoroughly enjoyable for us, and it has led to a very sharp growth curve, which we expect and forecast to continue.


The biggest challenge so far was the first six months when it's just you - you've got your computer, you've got your phone, and you are the marketeer, you are customer service, you are the admin, you are the finance.

It definitely requires a lot of hard work. I knew that starting your own business would require a lot of work, but it was more than I anticipated. So, definitely a lot of long hours, a lot of coffees. I think just staying motivated and remembering why you started the business in the first place is key to getting through that phase.


The thing that I enjoy the most about running Marvellous Escapes is definitely hearing from clients. It gives me great satisfaction when you receive a picture, or you receive a comment when they come home saying that they had a really enjoyable time and the holiday was really special.

We do receive some amazing pictures, you know, people at the top of Europe on the Young Far Rock and they can't believe the breathtaking views. It's really satisfying to know that you've built something for someone that they've thoroughly enjoyed, spent time with their family, or maybe celebrated a special occasion.

Additionally, I also enjoy the fact that you are involved in everything. So, you know, one day you're doing strategy, the next day you are dealing with all the admin side of the business - I like the fact that, you know, every day is different.

The future

The future for Marvellous Escapes holds more growth. We've just invested in taking on some expertise with new travel designers who have joined the team full-time, and we are forecasting a 200% growth next year from the £1 million that we did in our first year.

So, it's a really exciting time. Rail holidays are getting more and more popular and we want Marvellous Escapes to be at the front of that.


The advice I would give to someone starting their own business is to really think it through. It's going to be hard work and it's going to take its toll on you.

I describe it like this - if you want to learn to speak Mandarin Chinese, you can absolutely do it, but you have to really have that passion and that drive and that desire to push you through.

It's been harder than I thought it was initially going to be, but I think as long as you are doing it for the right reasons, and you really hold that desire deep down inside you, you'll push through the difficult times and enjoy the journey.

Using 1st Formations

I found 1st Formations online, actually. I was searching on YouTube about forming a company and the various administration that is required. I found some videos, which were extremely helpful, that then took me to your website, which I found very clear with lots of information.

I really enjoyed reading the blogs. They gave me the confidence to make a purchase online and find the right package for myself, which took care of everything including the company formation, VAT registration, and help with setting up a bank account - all of those bits and pieces that are required in the early days. It was great to find a company like 1st Formations, where it was just so easy.

The company formation process

I found the 1st Formations company formation process extremely simple and very quick. I used the online chat that you have. I spoke to an agent who replied very quickly, answered a quick question, and then I proceeded to place my order online.

I think it was the All Inclusive Package, with various bits and pieces like VAT registration, confirmation statement – the things that I was not too sure about at the beginning, and it was all very quick.

A few hours later, I got an email with my company incorporation details and Marvellous Escapes was born. Since then, I've been using the online account manager a lot to manage my business mail.

1st Formations today

I use 1st Formations regularly. I really enjoy the online business account manager that I have. The business address is absolutely key for us, because we are a fully remote business, so we have people up in Hull, in Essex, basically all over the UK.

The ability to have a central London address and receive mail that is then quickly scanned, allowing us to access it, download it, and print it, is really useful for us and enables us to operate without a bricks and mortar office.


My experience with 1st Formations was easy and the instructions were clear for someone like me who has no business experience.

Julia Parker, Lettuce Publishing View customer story
Julia Parker, Founder of Lettuce Publishing. Image credit to Ali Allen.