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Agent Diary: ‘After eight months of trading, I’ve beaten the target I set myself for my first year as an agent’

Changing direction was a gamble, but it’s paid off – even if operators can be slow to play ball, says Carla Hutchings, Luxury Travel Associate at Swords Travel in Bournemouth.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, as the song goes.

I have completed my Christmas shopping (and am feeling very smug about it), and my Christmas decorations will also be going up this weekend.

I needed to be organised this year, as I have a pre-Christmas holiday to Tenerife, staying at the Bahia Del Duque, planned. On top of that, I am having a few days away in York with the Swords Travel team for our Christmas celebrations.

I’m currently working on a high-value, tailor-made itinerary to Hawaii for next year, which I’m hoping will convert soon.

And this week, I’ve been looking after the Swords Travel shop in Wimbledon while (owners) Mark and Stuart (Swords) take a well-deserved break on a Virgin Voyages cruise around the Caribbean. I usually work from home in Bournemouth.

I knew it would be busy, but when I say busy, I mean really busy. I have been booking a nice mix of holidays, including ski breaks and trips to see the northern lights. I’m currently working on a high-value, tailor-made itinerary to Hawaii for next year, which I’m hoping will convert soon.

Catch up on quibbles

Now I’m usually full of joy, fun and laughter – but I must admit that over the past two weeks, I’ve been doing my fair share of moaning. A few of the associates and myself jumped on to a Teams call, and we started talking about the positive and negative situations we‘ve faced recently.

Now correct me if I am wrong, but – and quite rightly – tour operators are desperate for our business. Yet they have been a nightmare to get hold of for a quote recently.

A few of the associates and myself jumped on to a Teams call, and we started talking about the positive and negative situations we‘ve faced recently.

Being self-employed, I don’t have the time to sit on hold for more than an hour, just to get a quote. I much prefer using a website and putting the quote together myself – and that can take minutes.

For the tailor-made bespoke quotes, however, this is just not possible. I now have a list of two or three operators that answer quickly and offer an amazing service.

Audley Travel are one of these, and their destination experts are incredible. Prior to my call to Audley Travel, I didn’t know much about Hawaii. But now I feel like a pro. They didn’t just put a quote together, they listened to my customers’ specific requests and recommended places to stay and excursions. They went above and beyond.

Exciting year ahead

Most of you will probably know me from my tour operator days, when I was out on the road meeting agents. I decided to set up with Swords Travel this spring. I was nervous when I did, but I knew that I needed to make the move. And now more bookings are coming in I am so glad that I did.

I’m forecasting to end the year with sales of more than £300,000, which I am over the moon with. Not bad for year one.

After eight months of trading, building a database from nothing, networking and offering a service that makes customers want to book again, I’m delighted so say that I have already beaten the target I set myself for this year.

I’m forecasting to end the year with sales of more than £300,000, which I am over the moon with. Not bad for year one.

With year two on the horizon, I’ve got big plans in the making.


Carla Hutchings

Home or shop? I have best of both

Being a homeworker doesn’t always mean you need to work from home. I can also work from the shop in Wimbledon as and when I choose to.

Working from home is great for those days you need to get your head down, and if you need to be in for online deliveries.

Working from the shop means I actually need to get dressed ready for work, put make‑up on and pack my lunch! It’s great to have face-to-face contact with customers who walk into the shop as sometimes I do miss this. And it goes without saying I love the office banter with my colleagues too. Working from home is great for those days you need to get your head down, and if you need to be in for online deliveries. But I probably do get too many distractions. Having the option for the office and home gives me the best of both worlds.

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