Travel Counsellors agent Lisa Hillyard has been on the radio frequently during her 36 years in travel, Harry Kemble reports.
Q. How have you and your business coped during the pandemic?
A. I was at my desk at 6am on March 12 last year. I knew the world was changing that morning. I said to my husband, Paul, that we were not going on holiday because I needed to be in the UK. We had been due to go to St Kitts and Nevis on March 14. I was on call 24/7 throughout March. Not only were we cancelling bookings during those weeks, but we were also bringing people home.
Every day I didn’t know what was going to happen. I’ve got no idea how the airlines coped. Throughout April, I still had people travelling. But other people who hadn’t booked with me, in their time of need, came to a professional. I brought two people back from Tenerife. For me, I’m all about doing the right thing. I would always check in with people two or three weeks later to see how they were. I say to them ‘I now need you to support me in my hour of need’. My business is in rebuild mode. We’re at that juncture where people realise a professional is what people need.
“I was on call 24/7 throughout March. Not only were we cancelling bookings during those weeks, but we were also bringing people home.”
Q. What platforms do you use to promote your business?
A. I’ve been on the radio during the pandemic. I’ve been on national and local radio. Over the years, I’ve done BBC Radio 5 Live, Radio 4 and Heart Radio. I can be on a couple of weeks a time on a couple of stations and then I don’t do anything for eight weeks. I’m on the BBC list as a travel expert. I could have BBC Radio Wales or BBC Radio Kent calling. I’m based in Northampton so I’m on BBC Radio Northampton pretty often. The independent radio stations ask me questions and I record the answer on WhatsApp and send it to them. With what is going on now, it’s important to create confidence among consumers.
Q. How did you start in radio?
A. When I did my YTS (Youth Training Scheme), my boss at the time made me do hospital radio. He said it would do me the world of good. I did that for about two years and loved it. Over my 36 years in travel, I’ve done radio frequently over many different channels.
“I’m on the BBC list as a travel expert. I could have BBC Radio Wales or BBC Radio Kent calling. I’m based in Northampton so I’m on BBC Radio Northampton pretty often.”
Q. What is your main aim when you’re on air?
A. I try to create awareness and positivity and am very careful with how I communicate to make sure everyone feels included. People want to know about test to release – how it’s going to work, if it’s a good thing and the cost of it. Everyone has got to do what they feel comfortable doing at a pace that is comfortable for them. I’ve often been called in to the studio but now, because I do it so often and because of Covid-19, they want everything done on the phone.
Q. Do many of your clients hear you on the radio?
A. I have quite a recognisable voice when you get to know it and a number of clients say they’ve heard me on the radio. I use the radio to build awareness of me and my brand. I hope that if people hear me on Radio 5Live and they google Travel Counsellors and my name they will find me. I still communicate with clients that I communicated with 15 years ago because they heard me on a Radio 4 programme called Excess Baggage with Sandy Toksvig. I love radio; I adore it.
“I use the radio to build awareness of me and my brand. I hope that if people hear me on Radio 5Live and they google Travel Counsellors and my name they will find me.”
Q. How have bookings been since the pandemic began?
A. All the people I’ve booked are existing long-standing clients. I’ve had new people contact me via social media but I’ve not had bookings from new clients. The lifeblood for us is looking after our existing customers because they’re the ones that come back time and again.
How is peaks going for you?
I’m still in rebuild mode and I’m planning for all sorts of things. Granted, I’m changing a lot of bookings and I’m still doing a lot of manoeuvring with bookings that were made in good faith. There is going to be a lot of that over the next few months. This is what it’s going to be like for the whole of the winter and leading up to spring while the vaccine is rolled out. We don’t know how long vaccinations will go on for, but I’ve heard reports that it could be until the end of the year.
“I’m still doing a lot of manoeuvring with bookings that were made in good faith. There is going to be a lot of that over the next few months.”
Day by day, we don’t know what’s happening in the world. I’m in a better place than three months ago, or even nine months ago. I’m working on a honeymoon quote and a cruise in 2023, so that is good. There are bookings coming in, so we have to remain positive and upbeat about what the future holds. We are definitely in a better place than we were nine months ago.