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Q&A: Expert Excelle travel agent on her career insights

Alison Wood has been in the travel industry for 26 years and worked at Excelle in Leeds for six. TTG got all the answers about her career in this Q&A.

TRFBLI
Alison Wood has been working at Excelle for six years
Alison Wood has been working at Excelle for six years
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Expert Excelle travel agent with her career insights

What’s the secret to delivering excellent customer service? 'Honesty'

How did you get into travel?

A friend of mine wanted to be a travel rep but was too scared to go to the interview alone so I went with her – I ended up getting the job and she didn’t!

 

"I was 18 and had a boring job in an insurance office at the time."

 

I was 18 and had a boring job in an insurance office at the time.

 

Two weeks later I was in Majorca. I did two seasons with ILG and one with Cosmos and loved the job, but I noticed other reps were settling down and getting married to their Spanish boyfriends.

 

I didn’t want to marry mine, so I came home! Later, I booked a holiday at Pickfords Travel, got talking and landed a job there.

Proudest moment in your career to date?

Going it alone after taking redundancy from Thomas Cook. I joined Global Travel Group because I got a great deal, and after six months in business I won the group’s Best Newcomer award.

 

It was a sign I’d made the right decision to start Excelle Travel.

What is a typical day off for you?

I work weekends so always take a day off in the week to go out with girlfriends. It’s always to go shopping and have cocktails.


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Most satisfactory booking you’ve ever made?

I had a client who was a cricket umpire. He wanted to take a group of 100 people to Barbados, with a mix of seven-, 14-, and 21-night stays. It took months to organise but resulted in a £150,000 booking.

Best fam trip you’ve ever been on?

It was South Africa with Virgin Atlantic. We flew Upper Class, stayed at the One&Only Cape Town, went to all the sights like Table Mountain and Robben Island, then visited the wine region and did a safari – it was magical.

 

I wasn’t confident about South Africa beforehand, but I have since sold that trip lots of times to people who want something special.

Most unusual request from a client?

It was from a guy who wanted to climb Mount Pedro, the highest mountain in Sri Lanka.

 

He wanted to get there on Christmas Eve and get to the top so he could “touch the sky”.

Favourite coffee break treat?

It has to be cookies.

 

Alison Wood with colleagues at Excelle
Alison Wood with colleagues at Excelle

What’s the daftest question a client has ever asked you?

One client asked for a flight from Leeds to East Anglia because they had heard it was a nice place – they thought East Anglia was in the US!

What’s your favourite destination?

The Cayman Islands. It’s so relaxed and has lots of flexibility.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a travel agent?

Maybe running my own bar. Or I’d be in Spain, married to my Spanish boyfriend!

Cruise, fly and flop or adventure holiday?

Running your own business takes a lot out of you, so it’s lazy holidays for me.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?

When my daughter was born my mum said I had to make lots of time for memories because kids grow up too quickly. I’m glad I took her advice.

What’s the secret to delivering excellent customer service?

Honesty.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self now?

Save your money – I spent far too much on clothes, makeup, going out and boys!

Who do you most admire in the travel industry?

Richard Branson. On my fam trip to South Africa, we spent a day painting a school he was helping to build.

 

All fam trips should include a bit of giving back in the itinerary; we’re very lucky in our industry.

What’s your one-to-watch destination?

Hopefully Sri Lanka. The bombs in April really hit business there.

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