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Travel Counsellors: A New Avenue of Growth

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Travel Counsellors has been around for 24 years. The company was founded in 1994 by David Speakman in Manchester England. With 1,700 travel counsellors, the company operates across seven countries globally namely – Ireland, UK, Belgium, The Netherlands, South Africa, Australia and UAE. The UAE operations began five years ago and there are currently 50 travel counsellors. Being a travel professional for years, Bootsman started off her career in the UAE as a tour guide with her vast global experience. She joined Travel Counsellors in her current position in February 2017. She very enthusiastically explains: “The whole ethos of travel counsellors is that it is personal and we care. This is demonstrated through our people and the value they offer their customers.”

The Differentiator

Travel Counsellors make their job very personal. As Boostman describes, “I think because we connect with customers at all levels. We follow our motto seriously, which is ‘Its personal, we care’ so we focus on not just the traveller and their needs but the needs of their family. We consider their requirements right from scratch so it is hand-holding right from check-in through the holiday as well as post-trip so that they are aware that at every point, we are present to help.”

The company also has an internal system named Phoenix which records and retains all details of the customer. This ensures travel counsellors understand their clients’ needs. Another important aspect is the duty office which is manned 24×7. If a customer faces any issue pre-, during or post the trip, they can either get in touch with their travel counsellor or with the duty office. This ensures that we are with them every step of the way. In keeping up with technology, the company also offer an app called MyTC which keeps clients abreast of all the latest developments, their trip details and a go-to tool in any situation.

The Structure

Bootsman explains the process which is simple yet strategic. She clarifies saying when we bring people on board, we have a very robust recruitment programme wherein all applicants have to actually give us a business plan. There are four streams of entry – the experienced travel agent, return to travel, trade and academy (this is for people who have a passion for travel but do not know how to sell travel). We have a pre-induction programme as well as a two-week induction programme. The company recently launched an initiative called TC Coach wherein beyond the two weeks training, for a year they are on-going training. This is to ensure that the recruited candidates are maintaining philosophies of the brand. Our travel counsellors also give the 12 Golden habits to deliver on what is promised to clients’.

The pricing to enroll is AED 5,000 for an experienced travel agent, which goes up to AED 8,000 for a return to travel and AED 10,000 for trade and AED 23,000 plus the cost of your visa or work permit for the academy. The cost includes a laptop, printer, and access to the system, IT support, business development support, training and all help desk support locally.

The Growth Phase

The company has adopted a robust business model which has been successful over the years. Bootsman adds, “I would really like to achieve greater visibility for the brand. People need to better understand the concept of Travel Counsellors which works on a recruitment, referrals and re-bookings approach.”

With a clear objective and approach in mind, Bootsman aims to get another 20 travel counsellors on board by end of 2018 and the target for end of 2019 is to touch 24 travel counsellors. Our 2020 vision is to grow the business with the right people. We are looking beyond the UAE and exploring other markets such as Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman. We have also got our first Saudi travel counsellor.

The company is also constantly looking to innovate with the product be it a new destination or even travel offerings. Some of the new destinations being explored are Bosnia and the Balkans.

One of the very recent initiatives launched is the new ‘route to entry’ for industry professionals looking to establish their own home-based travel business. The programme is designed specifically for individuals with travel and tourism industry experience but in non-retail roles.

Open to professionals in the hotel, airline, tour operator, inbound tourism (Destination Management Companies) and tourism board sectors, as well as non-GDS trained in-house travel consultants, it targets commercially-savvy executives with a passion for customer service.

Until recently, induction courses were designed exclusively for travel agents or non-industry professionals wishing to embark on a travel career. However, the company has identified a large number of people in the UAE with relevant and transferable skills that were ideal candidates to run a travel business for the homeworking group, particularly hoteliers looking for a career change. The three-week intensive induction course is now staged four times annually in Dubai.