Demi-Jade Markham talks to Madeleine Barber about the drive and determination that led to her becoming TTG’s High Street Agent of the Year last year.
When Demi-Jade Markham was named High Street Agent of the Year at the 2019 TTG Travel Awards, she’d been working in travel for just two years.
“I thought I was a very small fish in a very big pond and I genuinely didn’t think I would win, so it’s such an honour,” she says. “I carried my trophy around all night and wouldn’t put it down!”
The sales consultant at Cumbria Travel believes it was her thirst for knowledge and social media talents that made her stand out to the judges, but her undeniable drive for success is apparent too. While the agency doesn’t implement individual sales targets, Demi-Jade took it upon herself to make a goal of selling £1 million of holidays in 2019.
“I have a 92-year-old granddad at home and nothing is ever good enough for him, so when I went home and told him I’d made sales worth £993,000 he was like ‘eurgh, it’s not a million though is it?’,” she laughs.
The Covid-19 pandemic means Demi-Jade has been unable to reach her goal in 2020, but she still has the ‘million pound seller’ title in her sights for the future. “For now, my goal is just to improve on the year before,” she says.
On the social media side, since Demi-Jade took on responsibility for Cumbria Travel’s Instagram account in January 2019 the agency’s number of followers has risen from 300 to almost 3,500 – and counting.
“We have a market for under 30s and Generation Z, and their holiday choices are focused on what looks good on Instagram,” she says. “Because I’m just within that age bracket I use what I want to see on Instagram and turn it into a reality.”
Demi-Jade uses different editing apps, experiments with interactive Stories and works with a “rule of three” when it comes to choosing complementary images “because it’s aesthetically pleasing”.
Facebook is also a key selling tool for Cumbria Travel, with Demi-Jade spending time every day posting the latest offers and responding to queries on the social media platform.
Another of her daily tasks is greeting customers and tailor-making their dream holidays, a consultation for which Demi-Jade was once on the opposite side of the travel desk – before becoming a travel agent, she was a regular and loyal Cumbria Travel customer working in banking and insurance.
“I came in to book to go to New York and Los Angeles and I was chatting to the area manager Katie about how passionate I was about travel and how much I wanted to work in the industry,” she remembers. “[Afterwards], Katie called me and said the owners Tricia and Leanne wanted to meet me, and when they did, they said they wanted to take a chance on me and hired me on a six-month probation period – the rest was history!”
Demi-Jade’s thirst for travel came from personal holidays and was originally inspired by her parents, who also love to go on holiday to far-flung destinations.
“I worked to travel, so I loved researching bucket-list places to go,” she says. Then when Demi-Jade and her brother moved out of the family home she started choosing holiday destinations for her mother, who she says is rather particular. “I thought, if I can please and sort out my mum, I can please and sort out anyone!” she laughs.
But Demi-Jade hasn’t spent all her time at Cumbria Travel as a sales consultant. She was promoted soon after joining the agency in October 2017 and spent 18 months as assistant manager of the then newly opened Carlisle branch before moving to the Workington store (which is where she was when she won the High Street Agent of the Year award), and then on to Whitehaven where she’s based now.
“It’s been nice to experience all three agencies and the different [type of] customers in each one, learning how they like to be served and spoken to,” she says.
The Covid-19 pandemic has rocked the travel industry but Demi-Jade hasn’t failed to keep a steady head.
Working from home consistently through the national lockdowns meant she was still there for her clients, just a phone call away or contactable via email and Facebook.
“I try to constantly be happy no matter what is thrown my way,” she says. “A positive, can-do attitude goes a thousand miles.”
This attitude shines through even more when Demi-Jade talks about the future of the travel industry. “[In five years] I hope coronavirus is gone and business will be booming more than ever with everyone having holidays to make up for,” she says. “Travel is a lovely industry to work in and the people really make it.”