The OTA’s newly appointed deputy managing director talks to Harry Kemble about working his way up after starting at the firm as a temp
By his own admission, Tony Andrews’ cruise‑selling career began “purely by accident”.
Back in 2000, while picking up his then-girlfriend at the recruitment agency she worked at, he was offered a week’s temp work at Cruise Collection, part of Victoria Travel – the former name of Cruise.co.uk.
On his first day at the agency in Birmingham, he was initially turned away and told another temp had been booked. Unable to get home, Andrews was invited to stay and make coffees for the day.
Andrews, though, was “desperate to sell cruise”. Cruise Collection was then UK general sales agent for now-defunct Renaissance Cruises. Soon, Andrews impressed two members of the Renaissance on-the-road sales team with his enthusiasm. “I told them how desperate I was and how good I thought I could be,” he recalls.
He has never looked back. The Renaissance team told Andrew Gardner, the owner of Victoria Travel, that Andrews should be put on the phones immediately. “My first booking was a £25,000 cruise around South America,” he says. “The other sales consultants couldn’t believe it and had to help me through the sale as it happened so quickly.”
Andrews went on to work across most departments. In 2003, when the first Cruise.co.uk website launched, Andrews was in the corner of the office uploading the deals and fielding the calls. It is fair to say Andrews was a natural salesman.
For five consecutive years, he was Cruise.co.uk’s top-selling consultant before moving to the product and marketing team and launching the tailor-made tour operating side of the business in 2013. Collectively,
tailor-made and Cruise.co.uk’s Bucket List Collection now generate bookings worth more than £50 million.
Andrews said a key mentor was Seamus Conlon. The agency’s former chief executive stepped down last month to pursue other interests, which paved the way for Andrews to move up to the deputy managing director role. Chris Gardner replaced Conlon as chief executive.
“I have always tried to learn from the people running this business,” Andrews says. “This is a smart, forward-thinking business and we aim to carry that on.”
Conlon oversaw the acquisition of German cruise OTA Kreuzfahrtberater.de, in a deal worth €25 million, in 2017.
“It is well known that the company wants to build on its leading position in the market and be the number-one cruise agency in Europe – especially after the investment in KFB,” Andrews says, adding that Cruise.co.uk is “perfectly placed” to achieve that with its deals, consultants and online cruise community.
“It is the place consumers research their cruise and can speak to an expert immediately,” he says. “Cruise is a considered purchase – people want advice from real cruise people. We have that with our consultants, who all love cruise, as well as thousands of real cruise reviews and a forum full of cruise fanatics.
“A cruise purchase can be quite complex. I don’t think [selling] cruise will change over the next five years. Cruise ships, and their cabins, will be different, but people still need to understand their purchase.”
It is that attention to detail that has helped him secure the position of deputy managing director – 19 years on from making coffee as a temp.
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