Read our Q&A with homeworking consultant David Walker who had no former experience in travel but was recently crowned Leisure Agent of the Year by prestigious industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
We asked him to share his experience, tips and knowledge so that you can decide if you want to follow in his footsteps
Q. Why did you join The Travel Franchise?
After a lifetime in human resources overseas, I moved back to the UK but hated my job and wanted to work for myself. Somebody suggested that I try to earn a living from golf or become a travel agent. As I can’t play golf, I joined TTF in 2014 and became the first Money-Back Challenge winner in six months.
Q. Was it hard to start a travel agency?
No. TTF sets everything up for you from a contractual point of view, so you simply complete induction training, open your laptop and you’re ready to go. Because Not Just Travel (NJT) is part of the Hays Travel Group, we have access to great rates so we can be competitive and because we are part of a franchise we don’t have to think about paying a supplier, collecting money or sending tickets out. We pretty much make a booking and then everything else is done by head office
Q. Do you travel abroad much?
Well from September to December 2022 I was abroad more than I was in the UK, on a free trip to Ibiza, then Mexico, then Zanzibar, then Cyprus. I can book holidays while I’m away – clients like how much I travel because my knowledge of destinations is improving.
Q. What advice would you give new agents?
Think about what you would want from a travel agent and try to provide more. Start by advertising and recommending the countries and destinations that you know and enjoy because customers will see your passion and knowledge. Once you have their trust, they will, in future, book any destination with you
Q. Do you have a lot of repeat business?
I’m on 87% repeat business right now. I do a lot of Zoom calls with people, so there’s that face-to-face element of getting to know each other.
I will not book a holiday if I haven’t spoken to a person. We establish a relationship and they know I can be contacted at any time. This means if something goes wrong, they feel able to contact me while they are there, rather than have a bad holiday and then complain.
Q. How do you sell a place you don’t know?
Suppliers – NJT’s key trade partners – and tourist boards are a great source of knowledge, as are NJT’s business development managers (BDMs). I’ve been to 136 countries, but I still use Google.
Q. How often do you use your BDM?
A lot! I can bounce an idea off him and he’ll tell me whether it’s crazy or good. New consultants should make BDMs their best friend in travel, not to ring every five minutes but more if you have an issue with a customer or if you’re unsure what to do.
Q. Which bookings are the hardest?
The higher value bookings are typically easier because you have a smaller selection of properties to choose from. I’m in the middle of quoting on a lovely Australia trip right now in the region of £60,000 to £70,000 but there aren’t as many hotels at that level, whereas if you’re looking at a £3,000 trip to Spain the options are endless so it takes more time to research.
Q. What’s your biggest booking so far?
A lady rang me to share the good news about her divorce settlement and explained that her budget was more money than I could possibly imagine spending. My answer was: “Challenge accepted.” That evening she spent £160,000 on a three-month trip, which included a cruise to Australia.
Q. Which NJT initiatives are you most excited about?
I sell a lot of cruise and I am currently on NJT’s new Cruise Mastery Programme as it means you are privy to expert training, the brand new cruise website and deals that other agents won’t have. The key to cruise is getting the right ship for the client – the more exposure we have to all of the different cruise companies the better and we get invites to tour new cruise ships which is a huge help.
Q. Can everyone achieve what you have?
Absolutely. We all have the same tools from NJT – I don’t have anything else that a travel consultant starting tomorrow won’t have. I’m not great at social media, marketing, technology and even accounts but I’m great with people and that’s a must. I’d recommend network groups. You’ll be introduced as the travel agent. People won’t ask when you started. I really can’t recommend NJT enough.