Today we introduce Claire from Travel Counsellors. A great way to get your honeymoon organised, and you can also ask your guests for contributions to your honeymoon too!

1. Introduce yourself and your company!

My name is Claire Hudson and I am a Travel Counsellor. Travel Counsellors is the largest independent travel agency in the UK and prides itself on offering a personal customer service to all its customers. We are fully independent which means that I am able to source holidays, hotels, airlines etc from a wide range of 100s of suppliers rather than being tied to an individual company or group of companies.

Travel Counsellors has its Head Office in Bolton and the agents themselves work from home on a self employed basis. I am running my own business so have a desire and an interest to make sure that all my customers are well looked after both during the enquiry, before they travel, whilst they are away and when they return. My business is built on referrals, so being recommended and referred to other people who have been happy with my service or who understand what I do and can recommend on this basis. We are honeymoon specialists and offer a great honeymoon registry service to brides and grooms too.

2. What made you start working with Travel Counsellors?
I have always been passionate about travel and seeing new places. At the age of 16 I wanted to work in either banking or travel and chose the banking route. I was very successful at this for a number of years but it was never my passion. I wanted to get into travel but I didn’t want to work on the High Street in a travel agents. I came across Travel Counsellors as I used them for my own holiday and was so impressed with the service I received that I looked into the company in more detail. Liked what I saw, applied and became a Travel Counsellor.

Travel Councellors - New York
Why not combine a fantastic city break in New York with a trip to Florida or a Caribbean Island as a very memorable honeymoon destination?

3. Can you give us a typical ‘day in the life of’ – we’d love to know what you do day by day, even the what-might-seem-like-boring bits!
It varies so much from day to day but I am usually at my desk by 8:30 when I catch up with emails and our intranet system for latest news. Some mornings I will attend local network meetings where I meet other like minded local business people keen to grow their own businesses. Here we share what we do and work for each other to generate referrals. These meetings are enjoyable and everyone is really interested in my job – a bit more exciting than accountancy or will making! (not that those aren’t important…)

Each day Travel Counsellors broadcast a TV show through our intranet, usually 10-15 minutes long updating us on the day, business, what’s happening in the world of travel and giving us great incentives to make it fun. They are a fantastic support.

I will check my diary and send out thank you cards to recent bookings, phone customers due to go away in a couple of days to wish them a happy holiday, phone customers who have just got back to find out all about it and also write postcards to land on customers mats on the day they return too. I will also arrange some personal touches for my customers, champagne in the hotel room or on the plane, a special meal in a restaurant on an anniversary, things like that that will make the holiday/honeymoon for the clients.

I will deal with the enquiries I have received, researching the places that the customers wish to travel to, find them the best accommodation within their budgets and based on the types of things they want to do when they are away. I will then talk the options through with the customers and book their trips. Its so exciting to book people’s holidays – it’s a lovely feeling and I feel it every time I book a trip for someone, it gives a great sense of satisfaction.

I will also do some valuable training, suppliers and countries have great internet sites for agents where we can learn all about their products and find out more, that really helps when selling a destination or supplier to a customer. They also run workshops and I will go to these as well when I can, meeting suppliers face to face and sharing ideas with other agents.

I will also visit customers to have face to face chats on what they are looking for from their holidays to help me tailor them for them. I will deliver their tickets to them personally too just before they are due to travel. The days are busy and go so quickly.

4. What do you enjoy most or what is your favourite part of your job?
Booking the lovely trips for my customers, as above it gives me a great sense of satisfaction that they have something to look forward to.

5. How do you come up with  the ideal honeymoon / holiday for your clients?

I talk to my customers initially a lot and find out what they want to do whilst they are on holiday, what they have done before, what they have enjoyed and what they didn’t like so much. What sizes of hotel do they prefer? Are they into large all inclusive complexes or do they prefer a smaller boutique style etc etc. I like to find out about what they like to do at home as well – are they party animals or prefer a quieter life? This gives me a good insight into them as people and helps me match the right trip to them and decide what they would like. We have a superb message boards resource that will help me with enquiries on places I am not as familiar with. If I don’t know an answer I will have a colleague who will!

I do get a lot of enquiries where the customers have already done their research and know exactly where they want to go, I treat these customers the same and find out why they have chosen what they have chosen. Its surprising how with a bit of research and thought you can come up with something that will suit the customer so much better and make sure they have a much more enjoyable holiday.

6. How do you manage to mix your busy schedule with home and family life? Some secrets to your success please!
Working from home it is difficult to separate the work and home life. It does tend to take over. I do have a separate office for work and try and contain my business to there, but that doesn’t always happen. Very often you would see me on the sofa with laptop on knee researching enquiries. I don’t have children so don’t have that to juggle, I do have a very understanding partner and I do try and give him some attention! The great thing about my job though is that I can go to Sainsburys when its quiet, I can go to the bank when its quiet and then work those hours in the evening if I need to. The flexibility is great!

7. Do you manage to ever switch off the phone or laptop, or always sneakily checking emails and calls 24/7?
Guilty as charged! Cant resist looking when the blackberry beeps!!

Travel Councellors - Bali
The beautiful beaches of Bali. A lovely destination, great for a honeymoon!

8. What top tip would you give couples that are getting married?
Make it what you want it to be, rather than bowing down to pressure of others. Its your day, you want it to be special , yes you want everyone to enjoy it but don’t give in to things you really don’t want to do.

9. If you’re already married, what one thing do you wish you’d done differently?
Don’t get too stressed by juggling so many options. I see brides at wedding fayres who are gathering far too much information and will just be so confused that they wont know what to do! Look around at suppliers but make decisions on who you wish to use and stick with them, don’t cause more stress by getting a million and one quotes and then not knowing who to use.

10. What has been your most unusual request and did you manage to fulfil it?
Nothing as yet, I will let you know if I get one!

11. How long do you usually take from start to finish with a couple? Please explain the process that you run through with clients so our readers can schedule it all in…
When I get a honeymoon enquiry I initially like to chat to them, as I explained above about what they are looking for from the honeymoon. This varies from couple to couple, ideally I would like to visit them at home or meet in a coffee shop and chat through their requirements, probably for an hour and then take the information away and work on it. A lot of the time this is done over the phone too though and I can help anyone from anywhere in the country. I will take my time researching and searching for the best hotels and holiday for them. Even if I know an area I need to consider that they will very likely prefer different things to me so each one is treated individually and I treat them as if I am booking my own holiday. Lots of care and attention will be taken. I will then present back to my customers the options – usually 3 choices for them to consider and then it goes from there. Customers must not be afraid so say if they don’t like what I present – I don’t mind going back and researching again if I’m not quite right. That’s my job, that’s what I do!

12. When do you recommend booking, please tell us how much notice do you need and how far should couples book in advance of the wedding?
I would suggest booking a honeymoon 10-11 months before the wedding. Deposits can be paid and the couple can relax that it’s a job out the way. Flight schedules are released approx 11 months before so at this time we can get set prices.
If customers take advantage of my honeymoon registry service we can also get that sorted too. Honeymoon registry is a great scheme that enables the couples wedding guests to give them gifts of money towards their booked honeymoon.
The beautiful beaches of Bali. A lovely destination, great for a honeymoon!

Thank you Claire! If you have any further questions please contact Claire through her website or go direct to the honeymoon registry service to register.

If you’re a wedding supplier and would like to be featured in our Supplier Spotlight, please get in touch!