In November 2006, a year after launching in Ireland, Travel Counsellors were featured in Irish Travel Trade News. The front cover, and editorial piece written by Michael Flood, featured the TC Conference of that year onboard Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas.
The author noted that there were 23 Travel Counsellors at that time with a turnover of €500,000 and commission averaging 11% on each booking. How times have changed! Almost 13 years on the company currently has over 75 Travel Counsellors in Ireland turning over in excess of €30 million, while average commission is now 14%.
We spoke to three of the Travel Counsellor pioneers who featured in the 2006 publication – Lorraine Lawless, Mary Foyle and Sue Cahill – about life then and now.
Lorraine Lawless, Co Meath
Lorraine Lawless was the first ever Travel Counsellor in Ireland and has been with the company ever since. She admits that it was a very daunting experience to begin with as the company had no presence in Ireland and she had no customer base to work with. Lorraine is delighted to see the Irish Head Office in Cork growing and new Travel Counsellors coming onboard each year.
“I am so proud to say that I was the first Travel Counsellor in Ireland almost 13 years ago. Life has been great since becoming a TC. Of course, there have been good times and challenging times over the years – it was scary at the beginning because I had no customer base and people in Ireland had not heard of Travel Counsellors. It took me a while to start earning good money and that took a bit of getting used to. However, from the very beginning, the flexibility that this job has given me, being able to be at home for my children while doing a job that I really enjoy, is just priceless. I am now earning more than I ever thought I could earn as a travel agent.
“The biggest development since I started has been in the technology that the company uses. I remember seeing our booking system for the first time when I went to the Head Office all those years ago for my induction and, even back then, I was blown away. The technology has improved enormously over the past few years and it makes doing my job so easy and enjoyable.”
Mary Foyle, Cork
Now celebrating 40 years in the travel industry, Cork-based Mary Foyle has also been with Travel Counsellors Ireland since the start. For Mary, her decision to join Travel Counsellors was an instantaneous one. She had been managing a well-known city centre travel agency for 14 years before she made the move. With her four children aged between nine and 16 years old at the time, becoming a Travel Counsellor ticked all the boxes for her as she could work from home and be there when her children needed her.
“I am one of the pioneers of Travel Counsellors Ireland, starting after the company was launched in 2005. In those days, I had four children aged from 16 down to nine. I was heavily involved in school runs and after-school activities and that’s why I took on this role initially. I wanted the freedom to be able to do what I wanted, while also making some money for myself.
“Back in 2005, I was just a ‘travel agent’. Today I consider myself a ‘tour operator’. Life has been hectic over the years as business has boomed since I started. However, I still love the flexibility of my job. I admit I work long hours, but if I need to do something during the day, I can do it. In the summer, I will head to Kerry for six to eight weeks and reduce the hours in my working day and benefit from the long hours that I put in during the months of January to April.”
Talking about the advances in the company since she started, Mary said: “The technology advances within the company have had the biggest impact on my business since I started. With Phenix, our in-house booking engine, and the widespread use of destination management companies (DMCs) in many countries, I can now put together bespoke packages for my clients, thus taking control of the booking and, more importantly, increasing my margin. These packages now account for over 80% of my business.”
Sue Cahill, Wexford
Sue Cahill started her career in travel with a summer job at the Stena Line ticket office in Rosslare. After working for other travel agents for many years, she decided she wanted a change and made the decision to become a Travel Counsellor in 2005, along with her colleague Kathy O’Sullivan. Almost 13 years later, she still loves the flexibility of her work hours and doesn’t know what she would do without the company’s booking system, Phenix.
“After leaving my Travel & Tourism college course early, my tutor told me that I would never get a job in travel if I didn’t finish the course. If she could see me now! There is a huge sense of pride when I sit down after a long week and realise that I run my own travel business. Of course, working for yourself is hard work but the rewards you get back and the sense of achievement are great.
“Even though I work from home there are so many of us Travel Counsellors now that a friend is only a message, Skype call or a phone call away. I can basically work from anywhere if I have my phone and an Internet connection. Every year our conference is a great place to meet up with my colleagues and it really makes you feel like you are part of a very large family. The friendships made are very special and I have some incredible travel memories with my TC friends, including our fam trip to Dubai where we were spoilt with Business Class flights and 5-star hotels all the way.
“I have no idea what I would do without our booking system, Phenix. Also, the constant updates on the admin side of the business are fantastic – at the press of a button all documents can be sent to the client via our MyTC App. The company really has changed so much in the past few years and even though it continues to grow, it has still got the friendly feel.”