Cathy Burke has been the General Manager of Travel Counsellors Ireland since the company opened here in 2005. Having spent 35 years in the travel industry, she has seen many businesses come and go – and believes there are several reasons why Travel Counsellors have not only weathered the financial storm, but also prospered. Here she gives an insight into why.
Travel Counsellors is celebrating eight years in Ireland. What impact do you think the company has had on the travel industry here?
“We brought a new way of doing business to the travel industry in Ireland. It’s not just about homeworking – what makes us unique is that we don’t compete with our own agents. We spend 100% of our time and energy supporting our Travel Counsellors. Our website doesn’t sell holidays; instead it supports our agents so that they can grow their businesses. I believe we have helped to keep more talented travel professionals in the industry, because they are able to focus on the elements of being an agent that they really love. In addition, I think our professional approach has given credibility to homeworking with the travel industry in Ireland.
“Our success has had a huge impact on the industry as a whole, because throughout Ireland’s economic woes we have continued to grow, unlike many others. We talk a lot about bucking the trend, and yes we have, but we have gone far further than that here in Ireland. We have contributed €110 million in sales to the Irish travel industry since 2005 – we have grown from sales of €4.5 million in our first year and we are on track to achieve sales of almost €19 million in 2013.”
What is the most significant factor behind Travel Counsellors’ success?
“It would be impossible to put my finger on any one factor. Two of the most significant would be the calibre of the people we have recruited combined with our technology, which enables agents to control the margins they make. It is never a numbers game for us – instead it’s all about recruiting the right people who are experts in their field and passionate about travel.
“The business model, whereby we support our agents and do the majority of their administration so that they can concentrate on spending time with their customers, has also been instrumental in our growth. We are able to personally support every one of our 52 Travel Counsellors and help them to grow their businesses.”
Was there a turning point?
“We opened in the middle of the Celtic Tiger boom when there was a lot of disposable income in the country. It was a fabulous time to open and we got off to a great start. When the bubble burst in 2008 we didn’t make a loss, instead we continued to grow. We have grown, year on year, since. So, for me, our turning point was when the soundness of our business model was really tested in 2008.”
Your recruitment levels are high. When people join what are they most impressed by?
At the start it was all about the technology. In 2005 our systems just blew people away, particularly our dynamic packaging system, Phenix. However, now travel industry professionals are impressed by so many different elements of the proposition – it depends on where they have come from.
“Our training is quite sophisticated, and many of them can’t believe how much there is on offer. Many of our new recruits are working mums, or dads, with children to support, so they may worry about how they are going to earn enough money. For these people it is the sales coaching and exceptional support that gives them all the tools and skills to succeed.”
What has been your proudest moment in your eight years at Travel Counsellors?
“Another hard question! Out of the seven countries where Travel Counsellors operates, we are the smallest in terms of population, and yet we have the highest sales per Travel Counsellor, which is a huge achievement. I am biased, of course, but I think our Travel Counsellors are the best in the world.”
Further Information on Travel Counsellors Ireland:
T: +353 (0)21 235 5895