“The Phenix dashboard is definitely more advanced than tools I’ve used previously.” – Michelle’s story

Michelle Hyland joined us in 2021 after an extensive career in the travel industry – including working for a luxury tour operator, and more recently, for another homeworking franchise. However, Michelle soon realised that restrictions in terms of what she could book were holding her back – and she decided to make the move to Travel Counsellors.

Michelle Hyland

We spoke to Michelle to find out why she switched from her previous franchise to us, and why she’s a huge advocate of our in-house booking system, Phenix.

Hi Michelle! Could you tell us a little bit about your travel career?

I’ve worked in travel since leaving school, so I’ve got 37 years’ experience in the industry. I started my career with Thomas Cook and worked for them for 26 years in various locations and roles. I worked my way up from a trainee to a branch manager. During my time with Thomas Cook, I had my three children and continued to work part-time. I then moved to work at a luxury tour operator and was there for five years. Although I’d worked in travel for all those years, working for the luxury tour operator was very different to what I’d experienced before as I really learned about building holidays from scratch. I put together all the individual elements of the trips myself, which I absolutely loved.

Travel Counsellors isn’t your first foray into running a franchise. Why did you decide to make the move to owning your own travel business?

I’d been considering having my own business for some time, but due to family and financial commitments, the time was never right until my children were a bit older and I was given the opportunity to work for a new homeworking company that was established at the start of 2018. Although I loved my job at the luxury tour operator, I made the decision to jump into the world of being self-employed and started my travel business with the homeworking company.

What was it that frustrated you about the previous homeworking opportunity?

They were very supportive, but it soon became apparent that I was a ‘travel agent’ and not able to create my own tailor-made holidays. In most cases, I had to call the tour operators to put together itineraries, and I became frustrated as I didn’t always get the levels of service I expected. I felt like a burden to the staff I spoke to, who I felt were never really interested. There was the odd system where I could build my own holidays, but it was still fairly restricted.

What prompted you to start looking into Travel Counsellors?

I had a conversation with a friend who was a Travel Counsellor, and I learned about Phenix and myTC (Travel Counsellors’ in-house booking platform and integrated mobile app). I’d also heard good things about the wraparound support offered to franchisees, so I made the decision to talk to Travel Counsellors and attend one of their Discovery Days. I was sold straight away!

What was it about Phenix that really appealed to you?

I loved the fact that I could put together my own itineraries and be in complete control of what I could sell – as well as my margins, which are ultimately my earnings.

How does Phenix compare with previous booking tools you’ve used?

It’s similar to what I used when I worked for the luxury tour operator as far as being able to build holidays – but it’s FAR more advanced and offers so much more! The system in my previous role was very restrictive in comparison. For example, when booking low-cost carriers such as EasyJet, I had to book the flights on the EasyJet system, pay with a VCC, and then load them onto the internal system – which was extremely time-consuming. Some of the scheduled flights would pull through, but not all, and I had to use Galileo alongside which caused duplicate work in some cases. The Phenix dashboard is definitely more advanced than tools I’ve used previously.

What’s the best thing about Phenix in your opinion?

For me, it’s being free to book what I want based on the needs of my customers. I also have the support from colleagues at the Support Hub who can help me with whatever I need.

How does Phenix empower you to provide exceptional service for your customers?

I’d definitely say the way it works in conjunction with the myTC app. I love the dashboard, which I use alongside my diary. I also love the ‘soft touches’ section that prompts me to get back in touch with my customers – such as when it’s their birthday. It helps me to maintain relationships with my customers regardless of whether or not they’ve got a live booking, and enables me to offer that one-to-one, personal service.

Aside from Phenix, what else do you love about being a Travel Counsellor?

The regular communication, TCTV (regular TV broadcasts to keep the community informed), and most definitely the support. Whether it’s someone working on the help desk or one of the management team, everyone is so approachable!

What advice would you give to people who currently sell travel and are thinking about setting up their own business?

Do your research and make sure that you’re doing it at a time that works for you as far as finances, family, etc. are concerned. When you first start out, it can feel a bit overwhelming at times but there is always someone there to support you – whether it’s a colleague from the Support Hub or another Travel Counsellor. There are times when I work a lot of hours and don’t always get the work-life balance I wanted – but the work I’m putting in is now for the benefit of me and my family, and I can choose the hours that I work. It's the best decision I have ever made during my career and I absolutely love it!

Are you currently working for a tour operator – or perhaps running a travel franchise with another company – and are finding yourself sharing the same frustrations that Michelle felt? Whether you’re restricted by your booking system, or feel like you aren’t supported, here at Travel Counsellors we can offer a world of opportunities to thrive as part of our close-knit yet growing community. Get in touch today and let’s chat about how we can help you unleash your potential.

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