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Your Stories: How Michael Hughes switched from a bakery job to become a top cruise seller

From never having sold a cruise to a top seller in less than a year, Hays Travel Personal Travel Consultant Michael Hughes tells Juliet Dennis that a fam trip gave him the inspiration 

Q. Why did you leave a career in hospitality to become a homeworker in 2019?

A. I needed a change. When I finished school I worked in a bakery full-time. I was working in the bakery cafe, then moved to the shop and became manager. I was there for 10 years. While working there I always used to plan our holidays. I planned a trip to Sicily in 2018 for my partner’s birthday. After that, one of my friends asked me to plan a trip to Barcelona. I just fell in love with doing it and thought, ‘I could do this as a career’.

While working [at the bakery] I always used to plan our holidays. I planned a trip to Sicily in 2018 for my partner’s birthday

Q. Within months of starting out, the UK went into lockdown. What was that like?
A. If I had started a year earlier I would have been so much more in debt. Even though it was slow in my first year, that helped me in a way. I didn’t know how to cancel and amend a holiday so I learnt [during the pandemic] and it gave me time to find my feet.

I joined Personal Travel Consultants and went on the two-week Travel Academy programme in November 2019

Q. What did the homeworker training involve?
A. I joined Personal Travel Consultants and went on the two-week Travel Academy programme in November 2019. I was taught about the systems and how to approach customers. There was loads of role play and learning airport codes. I had no experience of using the phonetic alphabet so I struggled with that! We learnt about social media and how to use Facebook to generate business. We were each given a mentor and I came back ready to go. Our social media pages went live on the last day. I just wanted to start putting posts up straight away.

As soon as I got back from the training I put loads of business cards in the bakery and thanks to the staff there I gained lots of customers

Q. What was it like starting out?
A. I was panicking a bit when I took my first booking. I took the deposit and my mentor loaded it for me and sent all my confirmation details so I could see how it was done. My previous shop experience really helped as I had customer service skills and was used to talking to people. As soon as I got back from the training I put loads of business cards in the bakery and thanks to the staff there I gained lots of customers. My first week as a homeworker was quiet and in December 2019 I only took two or three bookings. I was wondering if I’d made the wrong move, but as soon as January peaks came along I was flying.

After the cruise I was talking to customers about my own experience. I was uploading pictures of the Greek islands and that drummed up interest

Q. What was the cruise trip that inspired you to sell cruise holidays?
A. In July 2021, I went on Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas on a fam trip around the Greek islands. I had never been on a cruise or sold one before. I didn’t know what to expect. I was speaking to people on board and they were saying they’d been on 18 cruises or went on four cruises a year. It sort of clicked this was a really good clientele to have. In the past I’d had cruise enquiries but didn’t know where to start or how to talk about cruise. After the cruise I was talking to customers about my own experience. I was uploading pictures of the Greek islands and that drummed up interest among clients. I took two or three big bookings and it snowballed from there.

My top sellers now are MSC Cruises and P&O Cruises. I’ve just been on MSC Virtuosa, which MSC invited me on because I’d been selling so much

Q. How have your cruise sales developed?
A. I just sell cruises now. I have had loads of training on Zoom; Hays gets people from the cruise lines to talk to us about the product. After the fam I started to look at P&O Cruises out of Southampton. The line had an offer of a 5% deposit and that really helped to get bookings. My top sellers now are MSC Cruises and P&O Cruises. I’ve just been on MSC Virtuosa, which MSC invited me on because I’d been selling so much of the cruise line.

I’ve been invited to join Dame Irene Hays to tour P&O Cruises’ ship Iona in Southampton at the end of July

Q. What have you got coming up next?
A. I’ve been invited to join Dame Irene Hays to tour P&O Cruises’ ship Iona in Southampton at the end of July. I’ve never met Irene and only a few of us have had personal invites. When I got the invite I was thinking, ‘Is this really for me?!’


Michael Hughes Hays Travel 2

How many cruise bookings do you make on average?

In May I booked 327 passengers on cruises for the whole month, worth a total of £156,381. In the first week alone I booked 100 passengers on P&O Cruises and then in the following three weeks sold 227 passengers on an MSC Cruises’ sailing to Spain and France in October.

MSC put the cruise on Virtuosa out of Southampton on sale with a kids-go-free offer. For a family of four it was about £688. I put it on social media and it went nuts, I was taking so many bookings!

So far this month I’ve booked 57 passengers on cruises worth £38,700 including a £20,000 MSC booking sailing the Mediterranean this summer

In June, I booked 100 passengers on a mix of long-haul cruises worth £48,000. So far this month I’ve booked 57 passengers on cruises worth £38,700 including a £20,000 MSC booking sailing the Mediterranean this summer.

I am trying to beat myself each month; it makes selling more fun! I didn’t expect to be so successful. After Covid, I thought it would take longer to get to where I am now.

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