Sarah Evans, The Appointment Group
Sarah Evans (pictured right) heard the news of her win from colleagues over the phone on September 19, while she was in Nashville, US. The Luxury Agent of the Year is based in the US helping to set up a new office for her company.
“I was so happy to get such a prestigious award for something I have worked so hard at. I was shocked as I felt the nominees in the category were really strong,” she says.
Evans started out with a yearlong placement at Hotelscene, now CTI, while studying hospitality and tourism management at university. She then got a job at FCM Travel before she had “the itch to do the London thing” and landed a job at The Appointment Group in its
corporate travel department.
“After a year, they needed help on the leisure side so I went over for a few months. I loved being able to create these amazing holidays for people and I moved to the team permanently.”
Now nearing her fifth anniversary with The Appointment Group Evans thinks her success is based on the small things she does for clients daily.
“In the luxury leisure industry you should know your clients inside out – for example, what they like to have in the rooms."
Since winning the award Evans has received more than 100 emails from colleagues around the world and says she’s looking forward to placing the trophy on her desk so she can look at it every day.
Mathew Richardson, Click Travel
Senior business travel consultant Mathew faced stiff competition from two of his own colleagues at Click Travel – Justin Asquith and Duncan McKenzie – who were also among the five finalists for the award.
The three nominated colleagues were all sitting in the same row in the Lyceum Theatre alongside Click’s managing director Jill Palmer at the TTG Travel Awards when Mathew’s name was read out as the winner.
“It was a little bit difficult before the award was announced but after my name was read out, everybody was congratulating me and saying they were really pleased for me,” says Mathew.
He is part of Click’s out of- hours team, which operates extended hours, and he works remotely from his Nottingham home.
Mathew has been working in business travel for 30 years after starting as a Youth Training Scheme trainee at Pickfords Business Travel in Redditch when he was just 16.
He went on to work for business travel giants Carlson Wagonlit Travel and HRG before joining Click three years ago. But what gave him the edge over his colleagues who also made the shortlist?
“I’m not very good at blowing my own trumpet,” he says. “What I try to do is use my experience working at larger TMCs to bring new ideas to Click. I’ve helped to streamline 25 processes, including improving our own online booking tool. I’m also a focal point at Click for reissuing airline tickets for clients as I’m quite good with all the fare rules.”
So where will he keep his award?
“I will take it into Click’s office in Birmingham and put it with the company’s other awards,” he says.
Naomi Johnson, Blue Bay Travel
Naomi’s thirst for knowledge and a proactive approach to customer service helped her see off scoop the award for the Call Centre Agent of the Year.
But the personal travel adviser at Blue Bay’s call centre in Stoke-on-Trent admits that she had to be persuaded to enter the TTG Awards for the first time this year.
“My manager asked me to enter last year but I wasn’t sure,” says Naomi. “We had a chat this year and decided to go for it – I’m so glad I did because it was such an overwhelming feeling to win.”
Naomi, who has been at Blue Bay for four years, puts her success down to being a “good all-rounder” and never missing an opportunity to go on a fam trip or take part in other training events.
“Gaining product knowledge is so important – even if I’ve not travelled to the destination, I always try to get as much knowledge as I can. I’ve been on some great trips to Thailand, Mauritius, Mexico and Barbados.”
Naomi likes to share her knowledge with the rest of the Blue Bay team and is involved in the training of new starters at the agency. Customer service is also a priority and she keeps in regular contact with her repeat clients to make sure they are happy about the booking and their holiday.
“I monitor Blue Bay’s Feefo reviews and it always makes me really happy to read the positive comments from clients,” says Naomi.
“Since winning the award, I’ve had so many lovely comments from customers on Facebook and emails from lots of people I’ve worked with and been on trips with.”
So where will Naomi’s prized TTG Travel Awards trophy be calling home? “We’ve got a massive cabinet for all our awards, so I think it will be going in there,” she says.
Holly Crabtree, Cruise.co.uk
Holly has been hard at work in the travel industry for 28 years, rising from an agent at Lee’s Travel to cruise specialist at Cruise.co.uk. She is now solely responsible for crafting worldwide cruise packages, something she has a great passion for.
“When I first got into the industry it was like I found my calling. I’ve never been happier than now at Cruise.co.uk. Everyone here is like family to me.”
Her steadfast work ethic and savvy marketing strategies more than prove why she deserves the Cruise Travel Agent of the Year award. During the course of the year, Holly has drummed up business through the social media by building her Facebook followers to more than 4,000, through quirky cruise fact posts and destination blogs. She also continues to increase her cruise knowledge by visiting more ships than ever and has made a significant mark on Cruise.co.uk through her desire to make the company more personable.
"The main focus was for my customers to see me as a real person – as an animal lover, someone with family and someone they can be friends with.”
She even hired a hot tub in the middle of January for a video in which she would provide her clients with some background knowledge and benefits of cruising.
“I wrote a script and sat in it with a cocktail like I was on a cruise. The only problem was that it was freezing outside.”
Celebrating her win is on the backburner.
“It’s straight back to business – my customers need me. I have 200 emails to get through!”
The gong, her second TTG Travel Award after scooping homeworker of the year in 2014, represents not just a significant milestone in her career but also as a message of hope for her peers in the travel industry.
“I want people to see that whoever you are and wherever you come from, you can win an award like this if you work hard and put your mind to it.”