Thompson Travel owner Sharon Thompson has had a brilliant start to peaks

Sometimes when things get on top of you, you just want to sit on a flight in peace or go out with your friends or family and take your mind off your job.

Not possible, I’m afraid, for those of us who run businesses in the travel industry. I’ve often wondered, if I told people I worked for HMRC, I would get a bit of peace and quiet.

Now peace and quiet isn’t necessarily something you get a lot of in our industry because travel is such a lovely subject to talk about. That is, as long as it doesn’t involve customers asking why we are all still in business when there is the internet. If I have heard that once in the last 10 years, I’ve heard it a thousand times. And guess what… I, and many other agents, are still here. The subject was even the main thrust of questioning put to John and Irene Hays when they appeared on BBC Breakfast last week.

My eyes light up when conversations go beyond price, the internet and how many freebies I get.

Chance meeting

On my way to the Travel Weekly Globe Travel Awards, I sat down in seat 1F from Belfast to London and there was no one beside me…heaven! At least, that was until a cabin crew member asked a gentleman in 1C if he would like to move across, away from the draughty entrance that had just blown my hair to bits as I headed for my seat. He was in the seat, one away from me, in seconds…and that’s when it started. “Where are you heading? What do you do?” I just wanted to sleep, given I had a big glitzy awards night ahead.

“We exchanged details on the flight and within a couple of hours of landing I had some flights held for him.”

In the end, however, it was a very pleasant conversation. The man had a very different job to mine, and a very good one, and we had a laugh and a good chat. Because, as we know, travel is such a lovely subject to talk about, I soon learnt that he was planning to take his whole family to Barbados for next Christmas. Three generations, two weeks, business class. We exchanged details on the flight and within a couple of hours of landing I had some flights held for him. Result: a nice £44,000 booking.

Opportunity knocks

That particular booking has helped contribute to our brilliant start to January so far. The office has been really busy, so much so that on occasion we had more enquiries than we could get through.

Some, of course, end up being a waste of time. But my encounter reminded me that we, as travel agents, should never miss an opportunity to demonstrate our knowledge as, while some enquiries are indeed a waste of time, plenty are not.

“The office has been so busy that on occasion we had more enquiries than we could get through.”

Remember that the information you are giving to these people you meet, who are all potential customers, sticks. And while you may not get a booking immediately, there is a good chance that person may well return when they are ready – or send someone else your way.

It’s weird the way things happen in our business, and I’m sure you can all relate to a casual conversation that led to a sales opportunity. So make sure you
don’t miss it!


Job-interview-SHUTTERSTOCK

Admin interview was just the job

I interviewed applicants for an admin post in my office last week. One candidate, who was currently working full-time as a receptionist for a company outside of the travel industry, explained that she spent half of her time booking flights for her colleagues.

It sounded like the firm wastes tens of thousands of pounds every year by making mistakes on non-changeable tickets.

She didn’t get the job with us, but it was still a useful interview for both parties: after our chat about the cost of her current firm’s travel bookings, we decided my agency could make their travel arrangements for them.