Francesca Barone, a member of Barrhead Travel’s Brilliant Travel division, spills the beans on some giant luxury cruise bookings. Ben Ireland reports.

Q: Where are you based and when did you join Brilliant Travel?
A: I’ve been a homeworker with Brilliant Travel since December 2016 [trading under the name FB Travel]. I’m based in Burgess Hill, Sussex, and although the company is headquartered in Scotland, it works really well.

Q: Are your clients local to you? 
A: Not really, they are all over the country. I have my regulars, but a lot of new customers come by word of mouth. I’m on all the social media platforms, but it’s not a huge driver of business; recommendations are still the best.

Q: How do you keep customers coming back?
A: I wrap them up in cotton wool. Nothing is too much trouble and I’m completely accessible and never not at work.

Q: And you’ve had a couple of bumper bookings of late…
A: This year has been really good. I made three four-month round-the-world cruise bookings with Silversea. The first one, for 2019, was a £160,000 Silver Sector with a regular. The second was a couple that said a round-the-world was on their bucket list, and they made a £130,000 booking. Then, out of the blue, their friends got in touch and asked if they could join them, so I made another £130,000 booking. I do a lot of Silversea, but three round-the-worlds in a year is unprecedented. I doubt I’ll repeat that.

Q: Wow. So that’s more than £400,000 in three bookings. How much will your sales be worth this year?
A: My best year was 2009, when I turned over £2 million. I’m expecting to surpass that this year. I keep saying to Barrhead that they can’t get mad at me next year if my sales go through the floor.

Q: Are your clients mainly high net worth individuals, and do they require extra special attention?
A: Yes. But I never ask them what they do for a living, although they sometimes volunteer that information. I’ve never actually met a lot of the referrals, but some regulars I’ve had relationships with for 30 years. They are generally older, most of them are retired. They are normal people who have a lot of money. They can take a lot of looking after, but that’s what I do. I wouldn’t say I’m a sales person, I’m a relationships person. I’ll be what they want me to be, and that’s my USP.

Q: Any crazy requests?
A: One that sticks in my mind is a couple I booked on a 10-night Seabourn cruise from Barcelona to Rome. They booked their own flight from Bournemouth to Barcelona on Ryanair, but as there were no direct flights back, they spent £14,000 on a private jet and transfers to take them home!

Q: What do you specialise in? 
A: Luxury cruise. I sell a lot of Silversea, Regent, Seabourn and Crystal. I’m known as a cruise agent, but I sell other holidays and I get mad at my customers if they tell me they’ve booked a land-based holiday elsewhere, which happens. I know cruise inside-out so I enjoy doing land-based. It’s something a bit different for me. It’s fun, exciting and new.

Q: How does being affiliated to Barrhead, though Brilliant Travel, help you as a homeworker? 
A: Barrhead is a beast of a company and I get access to so much product, commercial terms and people who I can contact on the ground all over the world. I get over-branded brochures, and help with email marketing. Joining Brilliant was a leap of faith but it’s really helped me move my business further forward.

Francesca’s CV

Dec 2016–present: FB Travel, her personal trading name as a Barrhead/Brilliant Travel homeworker

Jun 2012–Nov 2016: Homeworker at Midcounties Personal Travel Agents

Jan 2006–Jun 2012: First started homeworking for Instant Cruise Holidays, which later became Future Travel and then Personal Travel Advisors

Sep 1998–Dec 2005: Reservations manager, The Cruise Line