Look inside Travel Counsellors first-ever Virtual Conference

It's that time of year…. The time of year when Travel Counsellors from around the globe make their way to the Annual Travel Counsellors Conference. However for obvious reasons, this year we had to take things online.

1,700 Travel Counsellors and Support Colleagues tuned in to our first-ever Virtual Conference on Friday 20th November 2020, for a day of exciting business updates, inspirational guest speakers and the chance to win some fabulous prizes.

Inspiration from outside

Kicking things off was a surprise appearance from Manchester-based poet, Tony Walsh. Performing a 2020 reprise of his spine-tingling poem, reminding Travel Counsellors of the wonders of travel and the power of community.

Dr Paul Redmond encouraged Travel Counsellors to try a new approach to their business with some short, sharp tips:

  • Think like a start-up; WTTMSW (Whoever tries the most stuff wins), ask ‘What do you think?’ and remember to ‘shut up and listen’
  • TOWIE, no not the TV show, but ‘The Only Way Is Excellence
  • PUTP! Pick Up The Phone! Network deliberately and remember that you become like the 5 people you hang out with most
  • Gen X Rules: Target those in their forties and fifties
  • Remember “Dianomics”, as in, be like Princess Diana and show kindness, engage with people and refuse to be pigeon-holed

Kirsty Henshaw, founder of Kirsty’s, told us how she went from “one of the best pitches” seen on Dragon’s Den to running a seven-figure ‘free-from’ food business.

Launching in the midst of the 2008/09 recession, Kirsty had some straight-talking advice which resonated with our franchisees.

Her approach to adversity? “It’s there to be learnt from. COVID is just one example; every week we have a new challenge! But as entrepreneurs, we crack on. And all those people you helped during the crisis will remember the loyalty, passion and commitment you showed.”

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf them”

Ruby Wax OBE joined us to share some important advice on mental health, in her signature frank and funny style.

Ruby reminded us to reach out to our community; in her case it may be practicing mindfulness at her online Frazzled Café, for Travel Counsellors it may be making a quick phone call and speaking openly to their 1,900 global colleagues.

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Speaking of community…

Travel Counsellors, their partners, corporate clients and Support Colleagues joined us in TC Panel sessions, sharing their stories of triumph, trade, challenges and community.

Lucy Althorpe told us how she’s adopted a ‘no app, no quote’ approach and doubled her business in 2019.

Lucy said: *“The myTC app alerted my customer of a flight change before the airport were even aware. That’s the experience I want my customers to have with me: I don’t want them to have to keep looking at the board or going to the desk. I want them to be able to relax in the airport bar, quickly check the myTC app and know which gate to go to” *

Paul Grommel, of DPR Construction and client of Business Travel Counsellor Team Jon Stuckey, Rob Kiernan and Jan Frackowiak explained how they’ve gone through hardship together.

Jon, Rob and Jan enabled as much travel as possible to help keep DPR moving on essential projects. Where travel was impossible, the trio worked to rebook or refund, ensuring they didn’t lose money on cancelled flights. Having built such a strong relationship with the team, and valuing their service, DPR agreed to pay for any amends or rebooks in the same way they would for any other booking, despite it not being contractually obliged.

Aside from guest speakers, our business leaders took to the screen.

Kirsten Hughes, MD, was joined by Head of Product and Partnerships, Louella Fisher, and Head of Digital and Customer Experience, Chris Barker, to highlight the opportunities for 2021. Namely, pent-up demand, customers who’ve been let down with their current travel provider and a revival of postponed events; the Tokyo Olympics, weddings, honeymoons and corporate conferences and events to name a few.

Marketing Adoption Lead, Stephanie Wilson, shared insights from our latest customer survey. We found 61% of people said “booking with someone I trust” followed by “having a tailor-made holiday” were the most important factors when it comes to booking travel now, with just 6% saying “price”.

From updating their webpages to picking up the phone, Head of High-Performance Sales, Karina Fox-Andrews challenged Travel Counsellors to complete ‘The Time is Now’ initiative, and supercharge their business over Christmas and into the New Year.

And just 3 days into the challenge…

“I got a new ‘Bucket List Safari’ enquiry within 5 minutes from a lapsed client" - Andy La Gette

“My digital business card has been shared 96 times and I’ve got an enquiry to Barbados!” - Joanne Grogan

Two of our Corporate Travel leaders, Kieran Hartwell and Aisha Battersby, unveiled how we’re improving the TC Experience for both Business Travel Counsellors and their clients, using tech to smooth bumps in the road, maximise productivity and make business scalable.

Talking of tech, Product Owners Alison Warren and Laura Pomfret, launched the new-and-improved ‘TC Help Centre’, an intuitive microsite built from the learnings of the pandemic. The TC Help Centre pulls together information and assets from every corner of the business and uses AI to learn from the searches franchisees make. The aim is to enable Travel Counsellors to find the answers they need and crack on.

Peppered throughout the day were prize draws, including a 5-night stay at the Shandrani Beachcomber Mauritius, we raised an amazing £10,000 for our charity partner, Reuben’s Retreat with a raffle and silent auction, and sang, danced and performed into the night with ‘TCs Got Talent’.

Check out some of the conversation of social media

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