Your Stories: Making the switch from Virgin Atlantic cabin crew to Hays Travel homeworker

Former flight attendant Catherine Nathwani tells Samantha Mayling about achieving ‘Platinum’ status for sales

Q. What did you do before Hays Travel?
In 2005-06, I was cabin crew with Virgin Atlantic, travelling to the US, Caribbean and South Africa. I then returned to recruitment and project management. After having my girls in 2010 and 2011, I was a stay‑at‑home mum until joining Hays in 2018. I needed a job that fitted around school runs, sick days and school concerts.

As I’d worked for multi-level marketing companies such as Tropic Skincare, I was approached to join an online travel agency but it lasted less than a week. I researched other homeworking agencies and felt it could be the best of both worlds: being in travel without travelling away from my children.

Q. Why did you choose Hays Travel?
In 2018, the company wasn’t known where I live in South Wales, but I loved what I read. I joined the academy because I had no retail travel experience and trained for two weeks in Sunderland. On my first day back home, I spent the entire day booking a Thomas Cook holiday to Turkey. I was nervous but a lovely colleague, Jan, who I had never met or spoken to, helped ensure that everything was correct.

Q. How has the business grown?
I’d hoped to be able to afford little extras we hadn’t been able to do in a one-salary house. I now earn lots more and have customers in Wales, England and Scotland. I started marketing to my immediate network and that worked for five years. This year I’m getting lots more customers through word-of-mouth. Being self-employed, business isn’t guaranteed, but I am thankful to every customer that I’m growing year on year.

I’ve learnt so much and still pinch myself when I answer starters’ questions because I’m still so new myself. Even though we’re homeworkers, we have a huge network and speak daily to colleagues. The Hays brand has grown so much since 2018, so customers feel safe in my hands. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing; it seems to be working. I’m happy with the motto ‘slow and steady wins the race’.

Q. How did you manage during Covid?
I don’t know how, but we did. I say ‘we’ because the Hays Personal Travel Consultants team is a big family and we supported each other massively. Hays won some NHS contracts, so I gladly took a role. Being self-employed, I was paid on a commission‑only basis – there was no salary coming in from travel, so the contracts kept me ticking over. I was not eligible for any government grants or furlough. I hoped my service and support during that time meant customers would remember over the long term and come back to me when the world opened back up.

Q. How are sales?
They are going really well but I never take any booking or any month for granted. I work for every single booking – I love what I do and try to get my customers exactly what they want. A friend said I offer a “white-glove service” to my customers from the moment they contact me until after they return. My biggest booking was for £55k but I pride myself on return custom. Some customers have spent hundreds of thousands across multiple bookings.

I advertise and sell a mix of holidays but cruise and long-haul seem to be my best sellers. I earned a place on Hays’ Captain’s Table last year, which rewarded top cruise-selling homeworkers with a trip to New York and cruise to the Bahamas on Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis of the Seas. Cruise seems to be the way forward; lots of customers who are used to an all-inclusive European resort want to take a chance on cruising.

Q. What holidays and fam trips do you take?
My children have multiple food allergies, so holidays have been in European resorts where we feel safe. We are going long-haul for the first time next year, flying to New York with Virgin Atlantic because I know they will accommodate us on the flight. I haven’t been on a fam trip because of home commitments – apart from the Captain’s Table trip, which had months of notice so I could book it around my husband and the kids.

Tell us how you attained Platinum Status for sales

I joined Dame Irene Hays and head of homeworking Tanya Cooper recently for afternoon tea at The Rubens at the Palace Hotel, London, with 11 other homeworkers. It was such a privilege. Dame Irene is an inspiration and Tanya, as always, was fabulous. Since she joined Team PTC, we’ve gone from strength to strength. Recognition of our work is hugely appreciated but, as a homeworker, to spend the day with like-minded colleagues, sharing in our successes and learning from each other, was exceptional.

This September, I will join a Virgin Voyages cruise as a reward for hitting Platinum sales. I hit Diamond status in 2022, so I set myself the Platinum target for 2023 [for agents achieving £1.5 million in sales]. I’m almost halfway there again this year, but couldn’t do it without all of my wonderful customers. I thank them for trusting me and will always be grateful for them booking with me when I started, and continuing to come back and recommending me. Word‑of‑mouth is the most amazing marketing tool.

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