Ticket to success

For fast-growing franchisor, The Travel Franchise, demand for personal travel consultants is at a record high enabling top agents to make big money

Ticket to success

“It’s a myth that the majority of people book online,” asserts Paul Harrison, co-founder of fast-growing travel franchise The Travel Franchise and its sister company Not Just Travel.

“While many people are willing to book a flight or holiday up to £2,000 online, once they get past that figure or it’s a more complicated booking, they want the reassurance of speaking to a real person who is ABTA bonded and who will give them their phone number and be available should they need them,” he explains.

“Our clients are typical customers who want to go on holiday and experience a variety of trips from beach holidays and city breaks to safaris and cruises. Because we don’t do any ‘above the line’ advertising our customers are people who hear about us through our network of franchisees/travel consultants. Very often they are family, friends, acquaintances and referrals or people they’ve met through marketing their business on social platforms or at wedding fairs, local sports clubs, businesses and schools.”

According to Harrison, since Covid an increasing number of people want to book through a real person, particularly for more complex itineraries. And as demand rebounds post-pandemic, The Travel Franchise offers franchisees a timely chance to tap into this human desire for personalised travel advice and service. Harrison calls it a “golden moment” to catch a wave of pent-up wanderlust, with sales figures supporting 2023 as a record-breaking year.

Leveraging buying power

The Travel Franchise provides franchisees access to the same extensive travel inventory as major players. “We are the biggest member of the biggest buying power in Britain and work with over 3,000 suppliers,” says Harrison. This £2 billion-plus annual purchasing volume ensures pricing on par with leading online sites, he says.

But for customers, value transcends cost alone. “It’s important to stress that our customers don’t just come to us for price but for service, advice and convenience,” he emphasises. Franchisees offer a human touch money can’t buy.

Pursuing passion

Harrison highlights flexibility as a franchisee draw, with owners free to work part-time or full-time from home or anywhere they choose.

“Currently we have 550 active franchisees and our goal is to achieve 1,000 full-time franchisees and half a billion in sales by 2027,” he states, calling this target “more than achievable”.

Paul with TV star brand ambassadors Laura Hamilton and Hayley Sparkes

He highlights a 200% jump in 2023 franchisees over 2022, tapping remote work trends and rebounding travel demand. He ties interest to requiring no prior industry experience – but coachability is essential.
“Our business model is very simple,” he explains. “We have a network of home-based travel consultants who have invested in one of our three flexible franchise packages. All of the packages give them the basic essentials they need to be successful such as the travel products, the booking systems, marketing, training and support. What we don’t give them is a customer base, that’s their role. Once they take a booking we work in partnership with them by doing a lot of admin on their behalf.

“Our USP is that we attract and cater for people who have never worked in travel before whereas our competitors work with people who already work as travel agents e.g. in high street stores or call centres. In addition, 70 per cent of our franchisees have never run their own business before but what they do have is a burning passion and desire to work in travel and are therefore very coachable. They crave success and are willing to partner with us and learn as they go.”

Comprehensive Support

Once owners join, Harrison touts franchisee support as second-to-none. Seasoned Business Development Managers offer guidance. Harrison calls overseas retreats for top performers “very unique,” allowing deep mentoring in dream destinations.

The company sets achievable commission targets enabling driven owners to recoup their franchise fee (£14,995 for Elite franchises) quickly.

“Our Money-Back Challenge stipulates that they must raise a set amount of commission in their first 12 months. The sales criteria is very doable and many franchisees are surprised at how low the target is when they join. Dozens and dozens of franchisees achieve it, some in as little as six months,” he says.
Other support includes administrative assistance. “Once they take a booking we work in partnership with them by doing a lot of admin on their behalf,” Harrison explains. A networking programme called Partners in Travel fosters customer development through local events.

The franchise is also investing in technology, launching a new app called WOW, that gives operators additional help in selling and access to the best deals to pass on to customers.

“Our new WOW travel deals app is designed to help travel agents keep their prospects warm and stay front of mind. Currently our trade team negotiates some great deals with 15 key trade partners who give us one offer each per month. While we don’t expect everyone to buy the offer because we put it in front of them, the idea is that it keeps the customer thinking about holidays and reminds them to contact their personal consultant when the time is right. Hopefully existing customers will share the app with friends which will help franchisees reach new clients.

Consultants on a company ‘ Seminar at Sea’ cruise

“Downloads are not huge as the app has only just been released with a structured launch to check that it functions correctly but we expect numbers to increase rapidly in the new year as we have two new influencer programmes launching in 2024. While we have some great offers, as downloads increase the deals will get better and better as app downloads increase.”

Individual challenges

When asked about the biggest franchisee challenge, Harrison returns to mindset. Trading a comfortable job for self-employment poses a “cultural challenge,” he acknowledges.

But he encourages sticking it out through early struggles. “If they focus and learn their craft for the first year or 18 months there is no ceiling to what they can achieve,” he urges. “While some part-timers can earn £40,000 a year, full-time agents can make in excess of £100,000 and we have top consultants who have earned £60,000 in just one month. If they get good they earn good salary and, if they get great, it can change their life,” he adds.

For people new to relationships sales and entrepreneurship, Harrison contends obstacles like time management arise but prove conquerable. “Because our model is simple – we sell people holidays who want to go on holiday – the challenges are simple things that can be easily overcome,” he assures.

Enriching Lives By Following Passions

Quantifying success, Harrison eschews only highlighting owners earning over £100,000 a year, favouring stories of people exchanging unfulfilling work for rewarding travel careers flexible around family.

“There are countless success stories about people who have set up home-based offices who are now living the dream, travelling the world, enjoying a great income and fitting their work life around their family,” he says.

“But it’s important to remember that what success means for one person is different from someone else. We have some people that have achieved over £10 million in holiday sales like Mark and Isobel McCardie and David Walker, but the success stories we love are the people who join us to ‘suck it and see’ and then earn enough to quit an unfilling 9 ‘til 5 job and replace it with something they love”.
To him, providing avenues for people to pursue passions while enriching others’ lives is the enterprise’s core value.

With wanderlust, entrepreneurial interest, and indie travel retailer momentum converging, Harrison sees clear blue skies ahead for The Travel Franchise.

Ronnie Dungan
Ronnie Dungan