Homeworking agency InteleTravel has reported a surge in interest during the pandemic and said it is on track to double sales in the UK from £12 million in 2019 to £25 million in 2020.

The agency said it now had 10,556 agents signed up across the UK and the Channel Islands, which it described as a “vindication of its business model”.

It added that growth was based on strong demand for domestic holidays during the coronavirus pandemic, in addition to positive forward bookings for destinations including Greece, the US and Caribbean despite current travel restrictions.

InteleTravel entered the UK market in 2019, and was granted Abta membership in March of that year despite criticism from some established agents and commentators.

Founder and president James Ferrara said the growth figures reflected a focus on training and education with more than 60 suppliers, and said the company was attracting established travel professionals as well as newcomers.

He added: “During this pandemic we have seen an energetic enrolment of new agents.  We’ve been bolstered by travel industry professionals who have seen their opportunities limited, but we’re also bringing new people into the market from outside travel; our suppliers respect and like this strategy.

“This crisis has given people cause to reassess their priorities and opened their minds to new options.  Many now want the quality of life that comes with working from home and not trudging into an office every day and that’s part of why we are experiencing a boom.”

Ferrara also defended InteleTravel’s business model, which allows agents a low-cost entry point to the industry with no previous experience.

He said: “Our agents have been called hobbyists as some kind of insult. We embrace the term.  It celebrates the flexibility that allows you to choose to work on a Saturday morning or seven days a week and every shade in-between if you wish.

“Of course, you can be part-time and still be ethical, professional, have quality control and be trained.  We offer the best training available in the industry.”

Tricia Handley-Hughes, UK director, added: “The level and intensity of training is reflected in the performance. Our full-day classroom learning attracts 700 agents each day and we produce these sessions regularly. This is supported by themed, individual events culminating in our first virtual conference on a new, dedicated convention platform.”

InteleTravel said it hosted more than 15,000 hours of sales skills and product training for agents in the three months to July, and said all recruits must receive a 100% pass rate in tests on GDPR, the Package Travel Regulations and Abta’s Code of Conduct, Complaints and Resolution before they are allowed to make bookings.

Ferrara also defended InteleTravel’s recruitment policy via network marketing company PlanNet Marketing, which has also been criticised.

He insisted: “The truth is we’ve tried direct recruitment in the past and we weren’t very good at it.  We’ve spent millions on advertising over the years without much return.

“We’ve found a company that is very good at recruiting, through online marketing, word-of-mouth and face-to-face prospecting.

“Confusion can arise when some PlanNet staff are also InteleTravel agents because they value what they sell and choose to buy the part-time travel business for themselves.  But they are two separate businesses with no links other than a marketing contract; InteleTravel offers no network marketing scheme and its agents cannot recruit.”

He added: “We explained all this to organisations like Clia and Abta and they thoroughly analysed and understood it.  We’re proud to have had Abta approval since March 2019.”