Your Stories: Switching from investment banking to travel agent

InteleTravel homeworker Rachel Harris tells Andrew McQuarrie about making the move and how she secured a pair of bookings totalling £174k

Q. When did you start with InteleTravel?
A. In May 2019. I was always the one who planned holidays and always wanted to travel when I was younger, but my career was quite full-on and wasn’t something I could leave, so I wanted to make up for it in later life. I love the fact I can do this around my family, and it’s something I’m passionate about.

Q. How would you describe your time in investment banking?
A. I started when I was 17 and I left when I was 30. My dad and my brother are in investment banking and I met my husband through it too. I worked for American, Japanese and French investment banks. I was a middle-office manager looking after about 12 people, and we were responsible for the commodities markets – base metal, crude oil, coffee, cocoa, sugar. My French bank decided to get rid of the commodities arm and they made us all redundant. However, that tied in with me having my son in 2013, so it worked out well as I had planned a career break. I then had my little girl in 2016.

My career was quite full-on and wasn’t something I could leave, so I wanted to make up for it in later life

Q. Has your background in investment banking helped with your career as a travel agent?
A. Massively. I’ve got quite a lot of clients who know me from when I worked in the City, so that’s definitely helped. Social media plays a big part in that because you build up this huge group of friends over the years and when they see that I’m doing travel, they know me and trust me. A lot of my clients are also contacts I’ve made in my area since becoming a mum – mums at the school – and recommendations are important as well.

Q. What trips do you sell?
A. I try to stick with the luxury market. I wouldn’t turn away a holiday – I book anything – but I do prefer to focus on luxury family trips, because that’s what I’m interested in as well. I do a huge amount in the Maldives and Dubai and I’ve done quite a big chunk of Disney holidays too.

I wouldn’t turn away a holiday – I book anything – but I do prefer to focus on luxury family trips

Q. Can you tell us about your biggest bookings?
A. My two biggest bookings to date have both been for the Maldives. They were both for multigenerational families. One was worth £77k and the other was £97k. There’s been a huge rise in multigenerational family bookings since the pandemic. The £77k one was for a 10-night stay at Kandima Maldives – travelling over Christmas and New Year – and the other one was for 10 nights at the Fairmont Maldives, travelling in February 2024. Both bookings were for clients who had arranged trips with me before.

I used [the lockdowns] to train and learn about my products, and I still booked travel in the UK

Q. What did you do during the pandemic?
A. The pandemic was a real learning curve. I had only just started in 2019, so it wasn’t long after that we went into lockdown. But I used that time to train and learn about my products, and I still booked travel in the UK. I did a lot of direct bookings with hotels because people were anxious that they might not be able to go because of Covid, so I went for things that were very flexible. We had tons of training in our back-office system – webinars from suppliers and destinations – so I really plugged into it. And I got Travel Weekly sent to me every week and it helped me keep my knowledge up to date.

We had tons of training in our back-office system – webinars from suppliers and destinations – so I really plugged into it

Q. How are you going to develop your business?
A. I would like to concentrate on America more – Walt Disney World and farther afield – and I’m definitely going to concentrate on multigenerational families. I also want to do some networking to get more clients – you never know who you’re going to come across. And I’ll probably spend a bit more time on my social media as well. I’m going to do more on LinkedIn, for sure.

Q. What’s the best holiday you’ve been on?
A. I’ve probably got two. We went to Disney World in Orlando with my children in 2023 – it was the first time we had ever taken them and it was incredible. And in 2022 we went to the Maldives and that was also an amazing trip.

We went to Disney World in Orlando with my children in 2023 – it was the first time we had ever taken them and it was incredible


How did you feel when you secured the two big bookings?

It was quite unbelievable. It’s a huge amount of money, so when the balance day came I was a bit of a nervous wreck thinking, ‘Please make the payment’. But for me, once the booking is confirmed, it doesn’t stop there, because I’m going to be worried about those bookings until the minute the customers land in the destination. I want to make sure everything goes well. That’s the other side of it: you don’t do the booking and then forget about it. I spend a lot of time making sure I’m in touch with the hotel, making sure it all goes without a hitch. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime holiday so I want it to be perfect.

My average booking is probably between £10k and £20k. I recently booked one for Florida for £20k – it was a multigenerational trip for six people. That’s definitely something I would like to specialise in – group bookings or family bookings. Group bookings generate such great income and it doesn’t make much difference if you’re booking for two or 10.

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