Group announces plans to focus on client retention at annual conference. Juliet Dennis reports
The Travel Village Group is to focus on client retention and use generative AI to create itineraries, while offering staff career development opportunities and targeting a rise in its ‘agent millionaires’.
Bosses Phil and Paula Nuttall announced the plans at this year’s Travel Village Group conference, themed Opportunity Knocks, following “really encouraging” trading.
The group – which comprises The Travel Village, The Cruise Village, The Holiday Village, Southampton Cruise Centre and RiverCruising.co.uk – hosted 160 delegates, including staff and suppliers, at the Athena Beach Hotel in Paphos, Cyprus, last weekend.
The group’s retail business reported a 61% rise in sales this year compared with 2022. Homeworking division Holiday Village enjoyed a year‑on-year rise of more than 40%, while cruise bookings were said to have grown by almost 40%.
Speaking as the group prepares to celebrate 65 years in business, group chief executive Phil Nuttall said: “The business now has momentum. There is a real sense of purpose.”
When you are busy, the last thing you want to be doing is working out itineraries – and that’s where AI is useful
He revealed plans to launch Southampton Travel Centre as an internal platform in a bid to retain clients looking to book other types of holidays after buying a cruise through the group’s Southampton Cruise Centre website. It follows the “100% success” of the e-commerce business.
“They [customers] are not always going to take a cruise, therefore we are going to launch Southampton Travel Centre as an internal brand,” said Nuttall. “It’s making sure we service existing customers guests when they come back.”
Another initiative will be to enable employees to spend time working in other parts of the business to strengthen their skills.
The Holiday Village’s managing director, Paula Nuttall, said: “We are talking to our employed staff to see if there is anything else they would like to do in the business.
It’s about tapping into training or funding anyone who wants to strengthen their skills.”
Personal coaching sessions are planned with the help of business coach Simon Jackson, a speaker at this year’s conference, while the group’s apprenticeship scheme will continue, with further new recruits sought from local colleges.
The group also outlined plans to increase the number of agents making more than £1 million worth of sales a year – its ‘agent millionaires’ – from 15 currently to 20-plus in 2024.
Generative AI technology is being trialled, with the aim of sourcing itineraries for the group’s agents during the peak sales period.
Phil said: “When you are busy, the last thing you want to be doing is working out itineraries – and that’s where AI is useful. We will use AI to draw up itineraries.”
Paula added: “We are looking at how we can take the administrative pressures off business owners.”
The group has also given all staff, from its office cleaners to self-employed homeworkers, a £50 Sainsbury’s voucher as a Christmas thank you for their hard work.