Christophe Desmarais is the founder of Catamaran Cruises Mauritius, a cruise excursion company that delights guests with sailing experiences around the islands of Mauritius. When I first spoke to Christophe a year and a half ago, he was working full time managing one of Mauritius' best-loved luxury resort and managing his own company.
It was this - that he started a new company while having a day job - that got me interested in his story. In this interview, Christophe told me about Catamaran Cruises Mauritius and we discussed the importance of a great website when building a tour and activity company.
Since then, Christophe has managed to transition out of his day job and worked full time on his hobby. In this interview, I learned a lot about his incredible experiences as an entrepreneur with a thriving business. Read his story here.
Roughly three years ago, Christophe launched a simple site to showcase two of his own boats, the Cat Cruiser and the Island Hopper. Shortly after, he began receiving requests for cruises along the coasts of the island.
With twenty years of experience in the luxury hotel industry, he decided to combine his passion for excellent service and water activities, and began fulfilling these requests by offering cruises from other operators, effectively starting another business on the side.
Being the innovative and solutions-driven entrepreneur that he is, Christophe adopted an outsourcing model to grow his product range and began generating business for other local catamaran cruise operators too.
Like many successful tour and activity operators, Catamaran Cruises Mauritius has a user friendly website, which was the center of our discussion. Having been in the hotel trade for years, Christophe understood the wants and needs of customers and used this knowledge to build an interactive website with all the information people needed to make purchase decisions.
The internet has opened a world of opportunities for anyone out there with an entrepreneurial mind, and I have seized this opportunity to develop my website into a platform and am now leveraging the traffic by converting inquiries into bookings.
“The global reach of the platform and the interactions we are creating with both customers and other web-based platforms that attract like-minded people is simply jaw dropping.”
He calls this side gig his “hobby” and currently employs two other people to run the company. His team includes a commercial representative who works with DMCs to make sure that his company remains the preferred partner, and “our live agent and reservation genius” who has helped the business grow by converting all booking inquiries into actual bookings.
Much of the success experienced in the past year, including the increase of their turnover for the last quarter by two to threefold what they expected, was attributed to TrekkSoft.
“I do remember seeing a very rapid growth in conversion rates since we introduced TrekkSoft’s payment gateway to help with online payments.”
TrekkSoft basically helped me realise that a website could generate money and since having my very first activity go live, the payment gateway has helped us generate income.
Till today, we have not stopped adding new tours. We use the ticketing and voucher system extensively and I would love to have a person from TrekkSoft over here to help us better make use of the system.There is not enough time in a day to implement all that we have in our minds and to use the system to its full potential.
(He was very serious about having us over in Mauritius to work alongside his team.)
When I asked him about his social media efforts, he replied, “I do all that myself, Instagram and Facebook. I believe that the business has so many channels to reach out to customers that we must make use of them all.”
“Social media is certainly the way to go and I spare no effort in using various ones to reach out to new followers and customers. I love using our stunning collection of photographs to share what we offer as a company.”
Stunning photographs indeed.
One thing that's evident is that Christophe knows how to sell Mauritius as a destination and markets it professionally to the right audience. I believe that it is his experience in the hotel trade that has helped him understand his target market in great depth, making him a strong social media marketer.
As for anyone interested in going on a tour with Catamaran Cruises Mauritius, Christophe recommends the full day cruise on a shared basis to Isle aux Cerfs. But he says that cruising to any of the other outer islands surrounding Mauritius such as Ilot Gabriel, Ile aux Bénitiers and Ilot Bernache are just as spectacular.
They are also working on other products to offer customers such as quad biking, seaplanes, speedboats and expedition fishing trips to Saint Brandon.
12 months after publishing this post, I received an email from Christophe just before the holidays.
Warm greetings from Mauritius. Thanks for all the great insights and tips over the past three years. Thanks to Trekksoft, I have now been able to quit my full time hotel management job and do my hobby full time. The system is so powerful that it has allowed me to generate enough income to be able to earn a living exclusively through the web.
A huge thanks goes to Eric Seung who called me way back in 2014 and introduced me to Trekksoft.
Merry Christmas to you and your family.
Hearing about his transition to Catamaran Cruises Mauritius full time was unexpected and expected at the same time. It was a wonderful surprise to learn how a software solution helped him do what more of what he loves.
12 months on, Christophe is still trying to get us to visit him in Mauritius.
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This post was first published on the 27th of January 2016 and was updated on the 16th of May 2017.
Written by Nicole Kow
Having graduated from the UK, Nicole travelled around Europe before joining TrekkSoft's marketing team. She is now based in KL and regularly blogs about her travels at Next Train Out.