Agency encourages agents to ‘live what they sell’ and take as many fam trips as possible. Benjamin Coren reports
Most agents would agree that selling holidays is a lot easier when you build up a rapport with your customers. That is a theory that the team at The Sussex Travel Company very much buys into.
The agency, which celebrated its fourth birthday over Christmas, has worked hard to place itself at the heart of its community.
One of the most effective, and fun, ways of doing that is getting stuck into the various events that are hosted in Horsham.
Owner Tanya Pace co-organises the Horsham Caribbean Festival, which last May attracted a footfall of around 11,500 people, with the district council.
The event welcomed 18 Caribbean suppliers, tourist boards and hotels, including AMResorts, Blue Waters Antigua, Caribtours, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation and Sandals, and visitors took part in a quiz where they could glean the answers by visiting the suppliers. The winner won a holiday worth £2,700 to Tobago.
“Last year the agency organised a Travel Show, attended by 20 suppliers, at Mannings Heath Golf Club.”
Horsham’s Caribbean Festival featured steel drum music, limbo dancing and a cocktail bar. Visitors could also try authentic Caribbean street food at the market and buy Caribbean fruits and food. There was also live music from Trinniboi Boocie Soca and The Marley Experience tribute band. The event will return this June.
Last year, the agency also organised a Travel Show, attended by 20 suppliers, at Mannings Heath Golf Club, while Pace also attended the Horsham Americana event together with Travelpack.
Pictured: The Horsham Caribbean Festival
Word of mouth
The Sussex Travel Company’s reputation is such that customers are happy to spread its good name, which Pace says is “great way” to drum up business.
Fellow local businesses also put in a good word. The agency is part of a local networking group called Lello:Networking. Pace says: “It’s a free group and we meet at a bar called Mungo’s each month. We chat and share ideas and business practices.”
Word-of-mouth referrals have led to some big bookings too, including a school trip to China worth £50,000. “We’ve made that booking twice now and are about to do it for a third time,” says Pace. “We do it with Links Travel. The last one was for 33 people for a week.”
“The business prefers to sell operators’ packages, and regularly updates its window and brochure displays with the latest offers.”
The Hays Travel Independence Group member’s personal touch also applies post-sale. A typical day starts with staff calling customers who are due to depart that day. Pace adds: “We also call people a couple of days after they return to ask what their holiday was like. And we send a letter asking for a review on our Google page, as that’s where most people find us.”
Pace says her team is typically “really busy” answering phone calls and emails from new customers while completing the bookings they work on.
The business prefers to sell operators’ packages, and regularly updates its window and brochure displays with the latest offers, but also creates its own holidays using Htol, Hays Travel IG’s dynamic packaging tool.
“You don’t know from day to day what’s going to happen or what phone calls you might get,” says Pace.
“People like to take brochures and have something tangible to take away and look at.”
Pictured: Helena Santos and Justine Poutney
‘Live what we sell’
Pace, who has been in travel for her entire working life since starting as a Saturday girl for Thomas Cook in Bracknell, Berkshire, set up the business on Christmas Eve 2015 after spending 10 years as a Travel Counsellors homeworker. Between those two roles, she worked for travel management firm BTI Travel and leisure agency Yately Travel, as well as tour operator Africa Collection.
She encourages her team to “live what they sell” by taking as many fam trip opportunities as possible and attending as many supplier training sessions as they can.
“Tanya Pace set up the business on Christmas Eve 2015 after spending 10 years as a Travel Counsellors homeworker.”
“Fam trips are the best,” says Pace. “We get offered them a lot and I like staff to go. If it’s beneficial to the business, I’ll get them to join. It’s a great feeling after you’ve been on a trip to then email the hotel you stayed at to say you’ve started making bookings with them.”
Pace champions the importance of looking after staff. “I treat them how I want to be treated,” she says. “My goal is that I’d like to eventually take them away for a few days, but that may have to wait until we are a bit bigger.”
Pictured: The team outside their agency
Up close and personal
Justine Poutney, sales consultant
How long have you been in travel?
About 17 years. I started at Tui in Horsham, when it was Thomson. I was there about two years before I joined Kuoni for 12 years. I’ve been here for two and a half years.
I love the Maldives and the Caribbean.
Helena Santos, travel consultant
How long have you been in the trade?
Since September. This is my first job in travel after a travel and tourism course at Crawley College.
Have you had any standout bookings yet?
I booked a family of 13 to Turkey for £28,000. They flew from different airports.
Suzy Harwood, administrator
What have you done in the industry so far?
I’ve been in travel since I was 18. My first job was with [airline] Caledonian then I went to a tour operator called Travel City.
Europe, as it’s easy to get to and you can do it quite cheaply.
Pictured: Tanya Pace with Benjamin Coren
Benjamin’s day at The Sussex Travel Company
Horsham is my hometown, so it was familiar territory. The shop is located away from Horsham’s main high street on Queen’s Street on the other side of town. Despite not having the footfall of the high street, the shop was busy, with a near‑constant stream of phone and email enquiries.
The agency relies on word‑of‑mouth and repeat business, and it takes part in many local community and networking events to raise awareness.
As soon as I entered the shop, I was met with smiles and a warm greeting. The staff were friendly and attentive, and I detected a distinct sense of pride about the business and the standard of service it offers.
There is plenty in store to inspire customers, from the wall of brochures and travel‑related decor to the window display featuring the latest offers, model aircraft collection and bright collection of bath ducks from various travel brands.
The way the shop is decked‑out makes it clear Tanya and her team love travel and the community they serve.