Kevin Richardson only started working from home for Hays Travel in Janaury, yet he is already the top personal travel consultant in its Travel Academy for industry newcomers.

Q: You joined Hays’ Travel Academy as a personal travel consultant in January. What attracted you to the industry?
I wanted to fufil my dream. I have always wanted to go into travel. This was a perfect opportunity as the academy is for anyone who has not worked in the industry. I worked in mobile communications for 22 years and when I was offered voluntary redundancy, I thought if I don’t do it now I never will. My only regret is I didn’t do it sooner.

Q: What worried you most about switching careers?
I didn’t have experience of the travel industry. I spent a day in head office, which gave me an overview of what is available to me for my business and what they would supply me with; that confirmed to me that I wanted to do it. The Travel Academy is a 12-month rolling programme so I have spent days at head office and I go to training events such as those held by Tipto to learn about the suppliers. I have been on three educationals since I started; I’ve thrown myself into it! I go to as many events as I can to improve my knowledge.

Q: Give an example of something different you do to generate bookings.
I do holiday ‘house parties’ that I advertise on Facebook. I go to people’s houses or workplace and so far I have a 100% success rate with bookings made during the party. I went to a beauty salon recently for a group of women and they made an evening of it. I just take my laptop and if it’s a social evening, a couple of bottles of wine, and business cards. I find out what they want and search for hotels and destinations; it’s much easier to do it while they are all there if it’s a group booking. I’ve never come away without a booking.

Q: What is it that you do that makes customers come back to you?
I really focus on my customer service and I send cards to customers to say thank you for booking. I sort out and send all their tickets. I also send text messages to say happy holiday, and welcome home postcards when clients return from their holidays. I even text them on their birthday.

Q: How do you juggle work and leisure time?
I used to work continuously with no days off but I burnt myself out. Now I make sure I have a couple of days off a week. I have three shih tzus and I take them to shows so they need a lot of maintenance. I bath them every four days and it takes five to six hours! I work my business around the dogs so my hobby and my job are both really rewarding.

Kevin’s CV

2016: personal travel consultant, Hays Travel (Travel Academy), Tyne & Wear

1993-2015: customer service roles, most recently service relationship manager, Airwave