Luxury Deals 4 U homeworker Lianne Peters tells Samantha Mayling that industry staff have really supported each other
Q. What is your background in travel?
A. I’ve been a homeworker for 20 years, since the agency I worked for went out of business. I was with Future Travel for 14 years and have been at Your Holiday Booking for six years. I started to sell more Caribbean holidays and was making about 15 bookings a year for Sandals at first. I am now in the Chairman’s Royal Club for the highest-selling agents. Sandals really looks after you and I work closely with the BDMs and support team.
Q. How have you coped in the pandemic?
A. I had to fight for survival and worked crazy hours – 80 hours a week – to look after customers who panicked about getting their money back. I would not have got through this without the support of Sandals and Your Holiday Booking. I had a member of staff who left so I had to deal with her clients as well. I employ an admin lady, Louise Taylor, who has been a huge support. The support that I’ve had has made me want to succeed even more. I grew my business with Sandals by 25% in 2020. I have a nice clientele – they are mostly retired and can afford luxury. They take holidays two or three times a year. I feel people in this industry have really supported each other. My relationship with Sandals is stronger than ever and Your Holiday Booking really helped with support and phone calls. Peter Healey [chief executive of parent company Vertical Travel Group] has always believed in me and always supported me with everything.
“I feel people in this industry have really supported each other. My relationship with Sandals is stronger than ever and Your Holiday Booking really helped with support and phone calls.”
Q. What are bookings like now?
A. I am focused on 2022 and 2023 sales. Sandals is one of the few companies that lets us book that far in advance. A lot of people are concerned about the next six months and some can’t afford a holiday in 2021. But they all want something to look forward to – booking 2023 holidays has helped. Changing a booking with Sandals takes just 10 minutes on email. I’ve been amending about 20 bookings a day. My average booking value is about £5,000 for a couple. Once you go to Sandals, you get the bug and want to go back. I am booking Barbados, Jamaica, Antigua and Saint Lucia. I also book holidays with Blue Bay, Kuoni and Emirates, which have all done well too. Everyone will remember who was there for them [during the pandemic].
Q. Any outstanding bookings?
A. I‘ve got a group booking with Sandals worth about £150,000 for 70 guests flying out for a 10-day golf tournament at Sandals Ochi [in Jamaica] in November. I put the itinerary together with Sandals, and it includes dinners, prizes and entertainment. The booking came from one regular client and others in the group are coming from Spain, the US and Canada.
“A lot of people are concerned about the next six months and some can’t afford a holiday in 2021. But they all want something to look forward to – booking 2023 holidays has helped.”
Q. How have you felt about the past year?
A. I‘ve realised what is important in life. I adore my job; I eat and sleep it. But I have had to put myself and family first over the past six months. Being available all hours was never-ending and I was trying to do more and more, so I have cut down my hours. But work has helped get me through, it has given me a focus. I am going on holiday with my son and mum for Easter 2022 to Sandals’ Beaches Turks and Caicos resort. I’ve not had a holiday for three years. I can’t wait for a big industry party when all this is over. I am really looking forward to what the future holds and want to grow my business. I was going to open a shop – I got the keys a week before the pandemic started and it lay empty for six months. I realised that Facebook works fantastically well with traffic and its reach is better for my business, so I gave the keys back. I would love a shop but I know it needs to be open six or seven days a week. Working from home and using Facebook Boost Posts works really well if you have kids and can make up the time in the evening.
Why did you choose to build up your Sandals business?
I went on a fam trip with Leah Marshall [Sandals’ head of sales in the UK] to the Bahamas and absolutely fell in love with the brand. I had been doing on average 15 bookings a year. I knew then I wanted to focus and sell Sandals. I set up on Facebook and now have almost 14,000 ‘likes’. I’ve been a Chairman’s Royal Club member for three years in a row and currently hold Elite level. When I started boosting posts on Facebook, I hit 700 nights to qualify for the Chairman’s Royal Club. In the second year, we reached 1,750 to qualify for the Elite level, and hit 2,250 nights during the pandemic. Sandals are one of the best for incentives and training, and they’ve held lots of Zoom calls to help us gain knowledge. A lot of balances are due now and people are worried, but the flexibility of Sandals to allow amendments until next year has helped save a lot of bookings. I booked the first UK wedding at Sandals Grenada and the customers are now really good friends. I am in Hertfordshire but I wish I was in Barbados.