The Vertical Travel Group is tapping in to cruise through its travel agency Miss Ellies Travel and homeworking business Your Holiday Booking. Juliet Dennis talks to Paula Nuttall, group membership director
The Vertical Travel Group’s homeworking arm is poised to launch a cruise division as it eyes further expansion this year.
Your Cruise Booking will be an offshoot of homeworking division Your Holiday Booking, which plans to recruit 35 more homeworkers this year. It currently has 64, having taken on 32 last year.
Six of the group’s existing homeworkers have already been cherry-picked to form the initial group of trained cruise experts for Your Cruise Booking. A website, yourcruisebooking.com, is set to go live in the coming weeks.
Group membership director Paula Nuttall, appointed just over a year ago, expects the division to generate sales leads from social media and through promotions on price comparison websites such as Dealchecker and Bookngo.
“This will be extra business for these homeworkers,” she said.
“There will be a live search feed on the website and a call to action to the homeworkers.”
On the recruitment of a further 35 homeworkers, she added: “The biggest challenge is recruitment – and recruiting the right people. It is not just a numbers game.”
Nuttall said the homeworking and high street business had begun to focus seriously on cruise in the past year, appointing group product manager Susan Forsdike to train and support Your Cruise Booking homeworkers, and Dawn Wootton as assistant manager of Miss Ellies Travel shop, another Vertical brand, in Manchester.
“We have brought Susan and Dawn in because we didn’t have the expertise in cruise. It’s making a massive difference,” Nuttall said.
The decision to focus on cruise and train up staff in both businesses was already bearing fruit, she said, adding. “We hardly did any cruise bookings before. Since Dawn started last July, we have done more than £150,000 in cruise sales through Miss Ellies.
“Our staff are being trained and going out to experience cruises. Now customers come in and say they didn’t know we did cruise.”
Miss Ellies, a £2 million-turnover business, ended 2016 nearly £200,000 ahead of budget. It had a total refit last year, increased its marketing activity and is aiming for a 15% rise in turnover in 2017.
Growth has come mainly from new business, with the shop targeting community groups, schools and sports clubs, and working closely with charitable projects to raise brand awareness. It now has weekly proactive marketing days and sends out regular e-shots to its database.
With affluent areas nearby, such as Alderley Edge and Cheadle, the agency also plans to tap into the luxury market.
Miss Ellies eager to open a second Manchester branch
Miss Ellies Travel is on the hunt for premises for a second branch in the Manchester area and has just taken on its first homeworker.
The shop in Urmston, which is part of The Vertical Travel Group, has also revamped its website to feature live chat for the first time.
Group membership director Paula Nuttall said: “It would be nice to have [a shop] in the Didsbury area. We used to have a branch there, but rates are through the roof.”
The business is hoping to open a second branch by the end of the year, and further shops are on the cards in the long term. “We need to duplicate the model in another branch and then in another one. We want a really strong network,” said Nuttall.
Meanwhile, the shop now has a homeworker, Kevin Hall, who as well as generating his own leads can take calls in the evening and weekends when the store is closed.
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