Social media convert, saleswoman extraordinaire and now TTG Travel Award winner; Chloe Cann charts the career of cruise.co.uk consultant Holly Crabtree
Talking to Holly Crabtree on the phone it’s not hard to understand why she picked up the gong for Homeworker of the Year at the TTG Travel Awards last month.
Aside from her incredible sales figures and colossal reach on social media, she is effortlessly affable. Chatting to the Cruise.co.uk consultant is like catching up with an old friend, though we’ve met only once.
“I’m still coming to terms with the win,” she exclaims gleefully. “I was completely and utterly shocked. I’ve received prosecco and chocolates from tour operators in the post. I feel like a celebrity!”
For someone who’s been at Cruise.co.uk just a year - during which time she has amassed £1.7 million in sales - and who has spent minimal time on the counter selling in the past two decades, it might appear career success came from nowhere; but it’s been a long time in the making.
“I spent 12 months going door-to-door. I brought in operators to help train staff. We tripled our cruise sales in less than a year”
In 1988 at the age of 16 Crabtree landed her first job in travel on a YTS (Youth Training Scheme) at Leigh Travel in Wigan, earning £29 a week. At 18 she moved on to AT Mays Travel in Atherton, Greater Manchester, and within three years she was promoted first to assistant manager then store manager.
Then in 1995 she was headhunted to open a new Going Places store in Leigh, Greater Manchester before moving to the company’s Leeds White Rose store.
One of Crabtree’s proudest achievements was turning around the fortunes of the West Yorkshire store. “I spent 12 months going door-to-door, around doctors and dentists’ waiting rooms, bars and fish and chip shops to leave leaflets. I brought in operators to help train staff. I knew the cruise industry was rising. It was really successful. We tripled our cruise sales in less than a year.”
She was promoted to regional cruise coordinator in 2009, responsible for boosting sales in 32 other stores across four regions.
Eventually Crabtree’s love affair with cruise led to her parting company with Going Places after some 17 years service. “I wanted to specialise in cruise so that’s why I came over to cruise.co.uk. I followed my passion.”
After so long in a managerial role, Crabtree also yearned to start interacting with customers again.
“I didn’t sit on the counter and sell; when you’re a manager you’re looking after other people,” she says. “You can’t really focus on your own sales.”
She hasn’t looked back since moving to the cruise OTA, even though her working hours are arguably longer. “I prefer to work weekends - it’s a lot busier and when it gets towards the end of the month I work every day,” she says. “I love working here and I wish I’d done it sooner. It feels like I’m in control of my own business.”
There have been perks to compensate for the hard work. Earlier this year Crabtree won a place on a private “castaway” experience with Celebrity Cruises and Ben Fogle. The group learned to sail a clipper yacht and spent the night on the private island of Spitbank Fort.
Crabtree’s commitment to the job is unwavering, and the hours she puts into her work are visible with a few clicks of the mouse. “All I do is talk about social media. You can find me at 2am putting posts on Google Plus.”
As the TTG Travel Awards judging panel noted, she has achieved a vast following with few resources, achieving the kind of social media success that many businesses have invested thousands in with hopes of attaining a similar result.
“I hadn’t even heard of Google Plus this time last year,” she admits. “I went on to loads of different profiles [belonging to social media marketing consultants, such as Mark Traphagen] to understand how it worked and I realised it could be really powerful. My challenge is now social media. I’ve spent the past six months doing it and I’m happy with what I’ve achieved.”
On Google Plus, Crabtree has amassed some 1,800 followers, and received almost 2.5 million views. On average she gets 5,000 views a day, although that figure can rise as high as 10,000. On the social networking platform Crabtree says it is more about “promoting your business rather than yourself”.
On her profile page she posts links to articles on cruise, as well as links to her blog, which is hosted on the cruise.co.uk website.
Crabtree is also very active on Facebook, where she has almost 2,000 likes; here she posts news, funny stories and deals.
Despite her successes, Crabtree won’t be taking a break to bask in her accomplishments anytime soon. “I’ve achieved a lot in the past year but I’ve got a lot of work to do.
“In the next 12 months my aim is to really focus on Facebook and Google Plus. There are some companies on Google Plus that have 20 million views - that’s what I’m working so hard to achieve. I’ve not really done much on Twitter, but watch this space.”