Since the inception of the Hays Travel Academy in September 2016, the firm has come on leaps and bounds in recruiting new talent to the travel industry. Taking individuals without previous travel sales experience, Hays strives to turn them into savvy agents in just six months.
We speak to one of the newly trained agents to find out why they made the move into travel and what they learned during the training process.
Kirsty Sproat, consultant at Hays Travel, Houghton, and one of the 19 newly trained academy graduates, never had the time to pursue her dream of working in travel.
After 16 years coaching sales staff in an electric company’s call centre, and encouraged by travel agent friends, she decided it was time for a career change.
“Working in travel is something I’ve always wanted to do. A few of my friends work for Hays and they love their job, so that really encouraged me to look into applying for the academy.
“Because I have a young family, I’ve never had the time to go to college and get any qualifications. The Hays Travel Academy gave me all of those options.”
Along with her new peers, Sproat began the process with two weeks’ training at the company’s headquarters. Lessons included an introduction to the Hays brand, its practices, company culture, self-motivation and sales training, and
finally learning how to use the company’s in-house systems.
“I spent Monday to Friday learning how to look for packages, speak about travel, where places are, and finding out where clients wanted to travel using customer feedback and sales figures. I found learning how to use the HTOL system to be the biggest challenge; however, I’m more of a learn-as-you-go type and the more practical experience I had, the more confident I got.”
After the initial two-week training period, Sproat was posted to Hays’ Seaham branch, where she spent three months selling. And it wasn’t long before she began making waves within the team.
“I was the company’s top seller on one particular day. That went up on our notice board and I felt great. During my final month at Seaham, I did a cruise, a couple of long-haul bookings and a few domestic ones, and made more than £8,000 profit.”
Now working at the Houghton branch, Sproat professes that Disney is her speciality, saying her experience of travelling to Disneyland annually has helped to inspire clients.
“I'm a really positive person and my enthusiasm really shines through – that helps a lot during the booking process,” she says.
With only three months to go until the end of the probation period when she becomes a fully qualified agent, Sproat reveals what she loves most about the job.
“Interacting with clients and making their dreams a reality is an amazing feeling,” she says. “The team at Hays have been absolutely fantastic too. They couldn’t help me enough.”
Adam Dobinson, Hays Travel Academy trainer, explains that the company looks for individuals with both previous sales experience and a passion to break into the travel industry.
“Interpersonal skills are really essential so candidates can build rapport with clients from the off and deliver exceptional customer experience. An understanding of sales is advantageous, but we deliver our own training as part of the academy.”
Dobinson explains that training has been designed to be flexible to any applicant’s needs and blends classroom-based lessons in systems, customer service, sales training, product knowledge and assertiveness with on-the-job support and coaching.
“We think it’s important to bring fresh talent in to support the expansion of the company. So far, we have employed 19 travel consultants through the academy; five have completed the programme and 14 are due to complete it in the coming months. Moving forward, we are also looking to recruit across the UK.”