Molly Smithson, membership manager at the Travel Vault, tells Abra Dunsby about forging strong relationships with clients and giving agents the guidance they need to succeed.
While a passion for travel started in childhood for Molly Smithson thanks to regular family holidays abroad and in the UK, studying travel at school and then at university helped her gain a deeper appreciation of the industry.
“Studying made me realise how diverse the travel industry actually is, and how many different elements there are to it,” she says. “I believe tourism can bring so much more to the UK than just revenue – it provides jobs, benefits businesses and contributes to the stability of our infrastructure. Most importantly, tourism provides fun and education to every generation.”
While at the University of Greenwich studying a tourism management degree, Smithson, now 23, received a job-listing email from the university. Off the back of the email, she applied for a job at London-based company the Travel Vault and landed the position of membership manager.
“The Travel Vault provides a solution for start-ups and existing travel businesses to ensure they comply with the Package Travel Regulations and Atol regulations,” she explains. “The majority of our clients and applicants are start-ups. It’s hard for them to understand the regulations on their own. We help them to unravel the process and provide access to things such as credit-card merchant facilities and back-office systems.”
Smithson explains that her role as membership manager is to “help clients from their initial enquiry and with their application process, right through to establishing them as a member”.
Since she started in the role, the Travel Vault’s membership has grown significantly and now stands at more than 120. Smithson says she relishes the relationship-building part of her job.
“I enjoy speaking with all our members and building those relationships,” she says. “I love seeing their transition – especially start-up members who might not have worked in travel before – and seeing them grow and flourish. Without us, setting up would be much harder for them.”
Smithson tells me her proudest achievement to date is being named one of the TTG 30 Under 30 for 2018.
“I’ve only been at the Travel Vault for one-and-a-half years and it’s my first travel job. It’s so early on in my career that I wasn’t really expecting it – it’s really nice to have that recognition.”
Smithson recently moved back to her hometown of Hull, working from home for the Travel Vault and travelling to its offices in London’s Old Street around once a month. She adds that the 30 Under 30 accolade has helped her to network and meet new people.
“At the Travel Vault, we’re a small team of five, with three directors and two members of staff,” she says. “The 30 Under 30 meet-ups have allowed me to network with people of a similar age, and with people I might not have had an opportunity to meet otherwise.”
The mixture of opinions and backgrounds that the 30 Under 30 candidates represent also appeals to Smithson.
“Without diversity, differences of opinion and people having different interests, the travel industry wouldn’t be able to thrive in the way it does,” she says.
She adds that she is now looking forward to the next chapter of her career with the company.
“The business has grown so much since I first started, and I’d love to grow professionally with it too,” she says.
Nick Hughes, sales director, tour operations – B2B Europe at Gold Medal and Travel 2, says:
“Molly’s passion for the industry really shines through from her days studying at university to securing her role at the Travel Vault.
“She rightly identifies how diverse the travel industry is, and her enthusiasm for relationship building is infectious.
“The most impressive thing about Molly is her in-depth knowledge of the issues affecting our industry. Being able to advise those from a non-travel background on the often confusing regulations is admirable.
“It’s this kind of focus that will allow her to really succeed. The TTG 30 under 30 programme can only enhance Molly’s development, and I look forward to seeing that progression in the coming years.”