Surf Office vs. Corporate Travel Agencies

Corporate travel agencies talk a good talk, but are they really in the best position to offer you a ticks-all-boxes company retreat?

These are just a few of the questions you should be asking before you commit to organising an offsite with an agency.

In this article, we talk about the cons of organising a retreat with a corporate travel agency vs. Surf Office.

#1 Company offsites are our bread and butter

While corporate travel agencies spread themselves thin with additional services like visa management and travel support, Surf Office specialises in corporate offsites and team retreats only.

By focusing on a smaller piece of the puzzle, we’re able to hone our craft and organise more retreats. 

This targeted approach has helped to position us as experts in our field.

Whenever we received a request that doesn’t pertain to offsites or team retreats, we politely turn it down.

#2 We know our clientele inside and out

Unlike corporate travel agencies, we don’t cast a wide net in the hopes of catching any living creature.

Instead, we prep our bait, dangle our rod and wait patiently for the right “fish” to come along.

These are usually tech companies and startups, the majority of which work remotely.

This is our niche, and we’ve become very good at serving our clients’ needs. 

As a remote-first company ourselves, we know exactly what works and what doesn’t when it comes to organising company offsites for distributed teams.

And as time progresses, we’re refining our approach more and more.

#3 We pioneered the company-offsite business

Surf Office was started back in 2013 after an experiment in Gran Canaria sparked an idea to start offering bespoke offsite retreats.

This isn’t a new venture for us. We didn’t piggyback on the rise of corporate offsites since COVID-19 broke out. In fact, we’re pioneers of this business model.

We started small, dealing mostly with smaller groups, but soon we became more confident and started working with larger clients such as Google, Shopify, Hotjar and more.

Our experience working one-to-one with our clients has taught us invaluable things about the retreat planning industry.

And this experience cannot be replaced. There’s no book you can read or video you can watch that will teach you the things we’ve learned.

We’ve been there and done it. We’ve learned lessons the hard way.

#4 We’ve built long-term relationships with local vendors

Because we specialise in organising offsites and team retreats, we’ve built long-lasting relationships with vendors all over the world.

That includes activity facilitators, transport companies, caterers, hotels and more. 

In fact, our favourite hotel venues have hosted dozens upon dozens of retreats for our clients.

By working solely with trusted vendors, we can provide amazing hospitality experiences and avoid the common challenges that most corporate agencies face.

#5 We pride ourselves on our local expertise

We offer a huge selection of over 100+ locations all over the world.

You can choose any of these locations as the site of your offsite retreat, whether that be a sunny island escape to Hawaii or a culture-inspired trip to Vienna.

But if you want to organise an offsite retreat in a destination that’s not on our list, we’re going to say, “No, sorry.”

Strict? Maybe.

But there’s a very good reason why we do this: We’re committed to providing gold-standard experiences in every city we visit.

How can we do this if we’re unfamiliar with your chosen destination?

Corporate travel agencies will tell you, “No problem!” and start searching for accommodation and vendors.

But guess what? Your offsite retreat will be sub-par.

#6 We streamline the process with tech

Our expert retreat planners have access to our tech-driven backend. It’s kind of like The Matrix. They plug and become superhuman.

It also helps them to mitigate any mistakes during the planning process.

But it’s not only our staff who are tech-enabled.

We provide you with an online dashboard and mobile web version which puts all of your personal offsite information at your fingertips.

This streamlines communication, preventing you (and us) from wasting any time on needless back and forths.

#7 We employ a global workforce

Surf Office employs a multinational team that’s fully distributed across all corners of the globe (can a globe have corners?).

Because we’re not confined to a small, cooped-up office in London, we’re better equipped to sympathise with all kinds of cultures and backgrounds.

This allows us to create tailor-made experiences for our clients.

We’re also not confined to a singular time zone. 

We communicate asynchronously on a daily bases and work flexible schedules, meaning we can be there for you at the drop of a hat, day or night.

#8 We practice what we preach

We didn’t go into the offsite business because we considered it a golden money-making opportunity.

We started doing this because we truly believe company offsites are the only way to poise a business for long-term success.

That’s why we regularly organise offsite retreats for our own team (an all-company retreat before summer and then a few mini-team retreats in November and December).

In doing so, we’ve witnessed first-hand the importance of in-person meetups.

These retreats allow our team to connect over exciting shared experiences so that when we return to our desks, we’re stronger, more passionate, and more efficient.

We also spend our time brainstorming ways to make your retreat experiences even better.

#9 Honest prices and no hidden motives

There are multiple reasons why it’s cheaper to organise your offsite retreat with Surf Office.

Firstly, corporate travel agencies earn their money by charging you a percentage fee based on the total cost of the trip.

So there’s zero incentive for them to find you the cheapest prices. In fact, they’re motivated to overcharge you because they earn more money that way.

At Surf Office, we’re 100% transparent with our prices. We tell you the prices in advance, plus the costs of any optional add-ons which you can book later.

Secondly, we’re specialists.

We’ve built long-term relationships with our vendors, so we can negotiate the absolute best price for you by leveraging the promise of future business.

From the research we’ve conducted, our service is always cheaper compared to similar retreats organised by agencies.

Oh, and if you were wondering: organising your retreat by yourself won't save you any money either.

About the author

Peter Fabor is the CEO and founder of Surf Office. He started this venture in the Canary Islands back in 2013, operating apartments with a coworking space. First guests were individual remote workers. Surf Office later started to focus only on retreats and expanded to more locations. Now we organize retreats for groups from 30 to more than 300 people.

No items found.
No items found.
No items found.
No items found.
No items found.
budget retreat spreadsheet

Retreat Budget Spreadsheet

Are you organising a company retreat and want to make sure you have all the costs under the control?

Get a copy of our free Budget Calculator spreadsheet.

Get a copy

Interviews with more “newly-remote” companies:

How digital product studio Pixelmatters transformed from office to remote

How digital product studio Pixelmatters transformed from office to remote

By now, you’ve probably heard the news that large companies like Twitter, Shopify and Slack are “going remote”. And recently, we’re hearing more and more stories about smaller companies, startups, and digital agencies doing the same. What were their motivations? What challenges do they face during this transition? How do they see their future? We…

From the office to remote: Real.Digital chooses quality over the location

From the office to remote: Real.Digital chooses quality over the location

Around mid-August of this year Real.Digital announced that they will be operating as a remote first company from now on.They might not be affected by the COVID-19 in economic terms, but the decision to shift their work practices was still a significant one. Fortunately, they’re viewing it as a great opportunity to open up their talent pool to people from all over the world!

WeTransfer switching to partial remote working

WeTransfer switching to partial remote working

“We are not working from home. We are at home trying to make it work.” For most companies around the world trying to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, this quote probably feels pretty relatable as everyone adjusts to the sudden shift to working from home. Shared by Gwen Burbidge, the Head of HR at WeTransfer, these…

Skift’s Insights and Experiences About Switching to Remote Work

Skift’s Insights and Experiences About Switching to Remote Work

During these times, many companies are switching to remote work. You may have heard that large companies, like Twitter, Shopify, and Slack are doing so, but we’re also seeing this shift with smaller companies, startups, and digital agencies as well. Perhaps this transition was already in the pipeline, or maybe COVID-19 was the catalyst. Either…


How to plan your first company retreat

Get for free

With knowledge collected from:

free course partners logos

Organize your next company retreat with Surf Office

450+ retreats organized ● 8 years of experience ● 110+ retreat locations
Get a quote