“I was worried I wouldn’t have any momentum building up enquiries but that isn’t the case.” – Emily’s journey as a brand new franchisee

I’m Emily Coles, a newbie Travel Counsellor based in Rugby. At 21 years old, I’m the youngest person to ever set up a Travel Counsellors franchise! I joined Travel Counsellors after winning a place on their Academy Scholarship programme last year. I graduated from Coventry University with a degree in journalism. During my time at university, I set up my travel blog to focus on my passion.

Having recently embarked on this exciting new chapter, I wanted to share an honest insight into the hard work, tenacity, and positive mindset required to become a Travel Counsellor.


How my story began

In October 2023, I found out I’d been offered a place on the Travel Counsellors Academy Scholarship programme. Filled with pure excitement, and of course a few nerves, I worked on my pre-induction modules ahead of my November start date.

Week one – induction

My trainer, Kerry, was so welcoming and everyone else in the group seemed friendly. I swiftly came to realise that as Academy starters, we’re all in the same boat, as none of us have worked in the travel industry before. Over the first week, I completed a range of training modules - from setting up social media pages and analysing networking opportunities, to creating my first practice quote to Dubai.

There was a lot of information to retain, which is why it’s comforting to know Kerry will always be there for me. At this point, everyone in the cohort has become like long-distance friends. Wine Wednesdays have become a thing in our group chat, which again is…comforting!

Week two – induction continued

This week, I’ve learnt a lot about travel that wouldn’t have even crossed my mind two weeks ago – such as the importance of travel insurance and available sources for checking travel information. But most importantly, I’ve learnt how to be a tour operator.

Using Phenix has been somewhat of a roller coaster, including an accidental live booking…sorry Kerry! But, as soon as my business went live today, it was all worth it. With the support of Thea (my mentor), the trainers, support centre colleagues, and my Academy group, it was a true celebration of not just completing the induction, but of how much a community Travel Counsellors truly is.

Week three – setting up my business

I was worried I wouldn’t have any momentum building up enquiries but that isn’t the case. I started the week off with some social media planning, a few practice bookings, and my first two enquiries - a yoga retreat and a cruise paired with a week in Las Vegas. The enquiries are scary but exciting!

I also made the most of the marketing materials provided by Travel Counsellors. To inspire my network, I created a ‘five days of Christmas’ series on my Instagram, including Christmas market recommendations and festive break offers to Lapland and New York.

Week four – work overload

Wow, there’s a lot to keep on top of! I’ve started working from my local hot desking company, which is going really well. I’ve handed out my business cards to everyone here. I’ve broken down my daily must-dos, but what I didn’t consider was receiving more enquiries. In my head, I thought I wouldn’t need to factor that in for a little while. I’ve also spent a fair few hours on the phone with Thea in between working through quotes for Mexico and the Dominican Republic. She’s helped me stay on plan.

Week five – creativity and confidence

I think there’s always a time when people second guess their ability, and for me that’s been this week. I was away from the desk for a few days at the beginning of December, and even that short time away knocked my confidence. I was frustrated that my business wasn’t moving as fast as I wanted it to, even though it’s only been two weeks. I tried to change my mindset and put together three quotes for an anniversary trip to Crete.

Then I cracked on with writing some blog content for my website, because writing about travel is my comfort blanket. This week has made me realise it’s OK to make time for that because it’s still going to help my business.

Week six – training

This week I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on destination training. I began by completing my Qatar course, and quickly learned that as a destination, it provides endless desirable opportunities. Then one cruise enquiry later, it was time to start the CLIA beginners module.

I’ve also broadened my horizons in the Travel Counsellors community. I reached out to Matt, a franchisee based in Cambridge (which isn’t too far from me), and I’ve now booked to attend a supplier showcase event in Solihull with him in the new year! I have also grown closer to others who I started my journey with, regarding a few as ‘work mums’.

Weeks seven and eight – Christmas

Finding a balance between running a business and making the most of the festive season was challenging. I spent mornings reading through emails and speaking to specialists to prepare for January enquiries, then indulged in festivities in the afternoons. As the new year comes around, I’m excited to start working on my new enquiries to secure that first booking! With a Florida trip, a Christmas cruise for next December, and a tour around Ireland in the pipeline, there are only good things to come from this next chapter!

My reflections as a new Travel Counsellor

Becoming a self-employed business owner comes with all the emotions. From the nervous excitement of meeting new people to the stress of getting to know the systems and finally being left to your own devices. There have been brief moments where I’ve felt I’m failing because I’m not where I wanted to be by this point. But with them comes the fact I’m a 21-year-old business owner on a pathway that’s going to allow me to build the life I’ve dreamt of over the past few years. It might be rocky at times, but it’s going in the right direction!

We’re committed to nurturing the next generation of Travel Counsellors through our world-class training, tools, and support - so we've re-launched our Academy Scholarship for 2024! If you think you’ve got what it takes to become one of our self-employed franchisees, register your interest today. You could soon be following in Emily’s footsteps!

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