Emma McLeese, business development manager at Attraction World, has helped transform the ticket supplier’s sales approach. Katherine Lawrey finds out how
Emma’s first foray into the travel world was a part-time job in a Thomson store, while she studied for her A-Levels. The summer she left school she worked full-time, before heading to Liverpool University to do a business and PR degree.
She filled her university summers as an overseas rep for Thomson, first in Bulgaria and then in Majorca.
The travel industry inspired her dissertation, looking at Thomson’s crisis communications during the 2010 ash cloud crisis. To do some primary research she contacted Thomson’s head office in Luton, and arranged for four days’ work experience with the PR and airline teams.
After graduating in 2012 she secured a job in Luton, working for Thomson Cruises and looking after third-party cruise lines as well.
But working in head office didn’t supply the buzz she craved: “I’m not somebody to sit behind a desk all day,” she says. Before a year was up, a job at Attraction World had caught her eye, covering Thomas Cook and key accounts in the south of England.
“I’d only ever worked for Thomson, so in the interview, I had to confess to knowing very little about independent agents. It’s been interesting getting to know that side of the industry.”
And get to know it she has, with her independent accounts delivering 92% growth year-on-year.
With Attraction World, she has the variety that was lacking in Luton: “I’m in a different place every day and constantly meeting new people. My favourite part of the job is training people – I love it when I get an email from an agent telling me about a booking they’ve made as a result of what I have taught them.”
The lessons Emma learnt from her repping days have stayed with her. “Being a rep is great training on presentation skills and customer service, and with there sometimes being 18-hour days after an early airport pick-up, we learnt how to manage our time well.”
Her experience with a multiple also serves her well: “Thomson retail training is very thorough,” she says, and she has a valuable mentor in her Attraction World boss, director of sales Nick Hughes.
It’s been an interesting time to work for the ancillaries business, which has revolutionised its sales approach in the past few years, and McLeese has been a key player in motivating the change: “We’ve moved away from treating attraction tickets as an add-on. We treat them as an essential service that agents can provide, and a way to add more profitability to their business. We’re now working with agents to make attraction tickets a part of their business plan and our sales have increased as a result. It’s very exciting.”
Two months after joining Attraction World, she took part in a SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment fam trip, and the chance to experience a range of attractions is a perk of the job. “I went to Mexico last year, and did lots out there, a catamaran boat trip to Islas Mujeres, a night out in Coco Bongo, I visited the ruins of Tulum, went zip wiring and canoeing in the jungle, and learnt to be a dolphin trainer.”
But if she had to pick out just one must-do experience, it would be the Serengeti Safari in Busch Gardens Tampa Bay: “Hand feeding giraffes – that always sticks out for me.”
Emma’s about to take on more responsibility, taking Attraction World into Ireland, and her sights are set on becoming a sales director and managing her own team, and being a Tomorrow’s Travel Leader is a chance for her to broaden her horizons. “I love the ancillary sector, but there are many exciting parts of the travel industry, and you can learn so much from the mix of people in the 30.”