Agent Diary: ‘We never accept a fam trip unless we see potential to sell the product’

That one fam trip invitation resulted in both us and Royal Caribbean earning plenty of pounds, says Thompson Travel’s Sharon Thompson. 

I often think back to how my career in travel started. It was a big change moving from the commissioning and planning office of the government’s health and social services board. I had two small kids and travel sounded like the perfect move – it would allow me do something enjoyable that would also suit my family.

Don’t let customers know you haven’t got a clue about where they want to go, but instead find the information

I had the management skills, the people skills and degrees in IT and even educational psychology under my belt – I just didn’t know too many destinations. Nevertheless, my late father and I ventured into the unknown as we combined his business knowledge with his belief that I would be perfect for sales!

I learnt one thing early on: don’t let customers know you haven’t got a clue about where they want to go, but instead find the information. I did this from the start and my sales quickly began to grow. I was determined to make it a success.

Royal command

I’ll never forget a visit from Lorraine Quinn, who was an account manager for Royal Caribbean at the time, and brilliant at her job. As we were based in an office situated about 30 miles from the centre of Belfast, we initially slipped through the nets of many tour operators, but Lorraine travelled all the way from southern Ireland to visit us – and she invited me on my first-ever fam, to witness the launch of Splendour of the Seas.

Independent travel agents have a great ability to switch-sell, and following the trip I focused on selling seven-night cruises instead of seven-night sun breaks

It was an amazing experience and I was determined to repay the favour by promoting Splendour to as many of our clients as possible. Independent travel agents have a great ability to switch-sell, and following the trip I focused on selling seven-night cruises instead of seven-night sun breaks. And it worked: we now have an excellent cruise business.

So, that one invitation has resulted in both us and Royal – and now many other cruise lines – earning plenty of pounds.

Hatch of the day

Last month, I took up a spot on a Turkey fam trip with easyJet holidays, escorted by John Docherty. I normally send a team member but thought I’d grab the chance to see the Antalya region, on the new route from Belfast, as I’d never been.

The trip was excellent and it was clear easyJet wanted us to see the true selling potential of the region. They did exactly that. The hotels were stunning. The trip gave me a different perspective on selling Turkey and I was enthused to tell my team about the suitability for our clients.

I learnt heaps on the trip, including how turtles nest along the beaches of Belek. If you are lucky you may witness them hatching on the private beach of your hotel

We will repay the favour, easyJet holidays, and will focus on your Turkey offering going forward. Thank you for the opportunity to experience your product and allow us to grow with you. We never accept a fam trip unless we see potential to sell the product.

I learnt heaps on the trip, including how turtles nest along the beaches of Belek. If you are lucky you may witness them hatching on the private beach of your hotel. One of the hotels we visited had a few little turtles roaming around, seemingly having decided to stay in their shells instead of heading to the sea. Hoteliers respect their space and do everything to conserve these wonderful residents. Now, you don’t read about that in a brochure!


A trip full of Turkish delights

The staff in every hotel we stayed at or visited during our Turkey trip were fantastic and nothing was too much trouble. Some resorts were vast, so you could definitely say the space per customer was adequate! Paloma Grida in Antalya was my favourite family option.

Families simply would not need to leave the hotel – it has everything they would want. The kids’ facilities are excellent, the private beach is beautiful, and the on-site patisserie is an added bonus for anyone with a sweet tooth. It was a firm favourite of mine, as well as others on the trip, and I am already looking at dates for our family holiday there next year!

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