“What Covid hasn’t stopped is being able to show care and build relationships with customers – if anything it has created more time for that.”
Starting a travel business during a global pandemic may not seem like the most obvious career move, but that’s exactly what 73 of our newest Travel Counsellors did.
Lyndsay Hayes in one of them.
Has the experience been what you expected?
I was under no illusion that launching a new travel business in the midst of a global pandemic would be an easy ride, but I’ve been determined to use this time wisely to get my business ready and raring to go.
Although I’m still ‘new’, and I suppose you could say that external circumstances fast-tracked my decision to take the plunge, I’ve never once had a moment where I’ve thought ‘what have I done’?
In my first few days of launching my business I was delighted to book a luxury holiday to Turkey to the value of nearly £15,000. It was a real boost to receive such a brilliant booking so early into my new business.
Other than making some fantastic bookings, what have you been doing in your first few months as a TC?
While we may struggle to look for positives in the pandemic, taking the time to get to know people through Zoom meetings, social media or a good old-fashioned telephone call, has been worth its weight in gold for me.
Even if these customers aren’t booking right now, they’re getting to know me and what I can offer.
I’m taking advantage of walks in my local area – I quite often bump into people who know me from my Thomas Cook days, and who are pleased to hear I’ve launched my own business – many have been telling me for years that they missed me and wanted me to book their holidays again!
I’m finding that my customers tend to want to speak to me in the evenings, so I always make myself available at a time that’s convenient for them.
This means I have more time in the day to focus on getting to know fellow Travel Counsellors in my local area and familiarise myself with the tech and product catalogue I have at my fingertips.
I was surprised by the time it takes to ensure you’re up-to-date on all the training materials available – you have to be willing to self-learn at home, but who doesn’t want to learn more about the luxury hotels of the Indian Ocean, or what to consider in chartering a private plane, for example?
One of the biggest concerns for anyone joining us, regardless of when, is finding customers. What advice would you give on that?
What I would say is don’t worry too much about having a customer base to begin with.
Choose a company who will support you to build a customer base, nurture loyalty and drive repeat bookings.
I use the marketing materials provided by the support team and have focussed on growing my social media presence on Facebook and Instagram, which has generated some new enquiries since September.
Customers love it when I post a picture of a room with a view – I think we’re all dreaming of blue skies at the moment, and after this year I think we all deserve it!
What have been the main challenges?
I went into this knowing that it might be a slower burn to build my business in this environment.
However, what Covid hasn’t stopped is being able to show care and build relationships with customers – if anything it has created more time for that.
I’m virtually connecting with customers, both old and new, and people in general are pleased to chat about travel – even if it’s about where they can’t wait to go when restrictions are lifted, or putting plans in place for next year.
The reoccurring theme seems to be that everyone is craving something to look forward to, which despite challenging circumstances bodes well for my business in the long-run.
Why did you choose Travel Counsellors?
As a regional sales manager for P&O Cruises, I’d worked with Travel Counsellors, both the support team in Manchester and individual TC business owners across the North West. I’ve always been highly impressed with everyone’s professionalism and passion for their role at the company.
However, it's still vital to do your research. There are a host of opportunities available now, and you have to choose what’s right for you.
For me, I was reassured by the global network Travel Counsellors has, their presence in seven time zones should anything ever ‘go wrong’.
If this year has taught us anything it’s that your crisis management strategy has to be watertight, and I’ve already seen the company’s 24/7 duty office and support team in action during the pandemic.
Strong supplier relationships and having the technology to access product and flexible booking options, were also really important for me.
When thinking about launching my own travel business, I knew I’d be in safe hands at Travel Counsellors.
Working for myself is something that kept crossing my mind for a number of years.
Many of my friends run their own businesses, and I always admired their entrepreneurial drive and spirit. I’m quite a driven person too, and I knew the only way to get where I wanted to be was to be my own boss.
I’ve worked in travel for 24 years, starting as a modern apprentice at Thomas Cook, rising to various manager roles over the course of 19 years.
I moved to P&O Cruises as a regional sales and engagement manager for the North West.
I’m very much a ‘people person’ and I loved this role as it gave me the opportunity to constantly connect with fellow travel professionals.
I held the role for 4 years before going on furlough and unfortunately being made redundant earlier this year.
But, during my time on furlough, I had time to take stock and realised that I had to do something for ME.
Now, I’m so proud to have a business I can call my own.
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