New Tomorrow’s Travel Leader Rachael Belshaw, business development manager, Attraction World, shares her story with Rob Gill.
Attraction World’s Rachael Belshaw has her mother to thank for encouraging her to move into the travel industry as a teenager – and she hasn’t looked back since.
Aged 17, Rachael hadn’t been considering a career in travel until her mum spotted an advertisement for an apprentice travel agent in the window of a Thomson shop in her native north-east.
“It was lucky that my mum saw the ad,” she says. “I had spent a year at college doing a non-travel course and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. But I applied for the apprenticeship and haven’t looked back since.”
Rachael doesn’t just have a love for travel, she also enjoys the training process – so much so that she decided to become a trainer, aged 19, after spending two years as an agent at Thomson stores in Cramlington and Newcastle upon Tyne.
“I decided to go into training after I completed my apprenticeship with Thomson because I looked up to my trainer so much and thought it was something I wanted to do,” explains Rachael.
After qualifying as a trainer, Rachael spent several years educating travel staff, firstly at Training for Travel and then at Thomson-owner Tui, where she held the position of NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) assessor and internal quality assurer.
“I was training people who were much older than me, so that was a bit of a challenge to gain their respect and show that I knew what I was talking about,” she adds.
Challenges are something that Rachael obviously thrives on and this was one of the main reason for joining add-ons specialist Attraction World two years ago as business development manager, covering north-east England and Scotland.
“I worked in training for six years – it was a role that I loved but I felt I could do it with my eyes shut. I wanted to remain in travel but take on a new challenge. Attraction World has been a fantastic job and it’s so diverse,” she says.
Rachael admits that there was a lot to learn about Attraction World’s portfolio of products, as well as getting to know the agents in her region, including large independent chains such as Hays Travel and Barrhead Travel.
“Everybody was really supportive at Attraction World,” she says. “It takes at least six months to understand all the ins and outs, and you really only feel confident once you have done all the events and conferences over 12 months.”
Rachael’s hard work is obviously paying off as she has achieved double-digit sales growth for Attraction World from major agency accounts in her region. But what’s the secret of her success? The key comes back again to training.
“You’ve got to be able to adapt to different types of agents – for apprentices, you want to make it light-hearted and maybe have some games. But for managers, they just want the facts and figures. Travel is changing so quickly, you have to keep coming up with new ideas.”
Rachael’s tactics for training younger agents include games of “Attraction World Bingo”, where she asks questions and they have to cross off the correct attractions from a sheet of squares.
So while she is enjoying life at Attraction World, what are her longer-term career goals?
“Eventually I would love to become a director of sales – I think that would be a real achievement for somebody who started as an apprentice at 17,” she adds.
Meet all of this year’s Tomorrow’s Travel Leaders at ttgmedia.com/travelleaders
Mark Anderson, managing director, Virgin Holidays – sponsors of Tomorrow’s Travel Leaders – says:
“It’s clear from Rachael’s resume that she has both an inquisitive nature and a love for people, which are two very favourable attributes for anyone that works in the travel industry.
With her varied experience in training and educational roles, it is evident that she’s willing to build organisational knowledge through sharing best practices – something which I personally believe is a fundamental foundation for any business venture.
She should also be commended for building a broad career base, from a start in training through to business development and an eye for sales; Rachael is an all-rounder whose diverse background and experience is a valuable asset for any employer. I’d be interested to see where Rachael ends up; I bet her dream job of sales director comes sooner than she thinks.”