“Albatross places great emphasis on relationships both internally with its staff and externally with clients and suppliers”.
Tell us a little about yourself, your background and career to date?
I grew up in Hampshire, lived and studied in Wimbledon/South London, then met Jane and moved to Knowle, near Solihull 18 years ago. For tour planners, the area has everything apart from coastline. Oh, and grizzly bears. Time outside work is mostly spent cycling as a fully signed up MAMIL (Middle Aged Man in Lycra), brewing and of course tasting beer, and playing Dad taxi taking my daughter Jess to netball matches.
After an initial flirtation with television production at Sky Sports, I realised that travel had always been more fulfilling for me, and as an industry a lot less arrogant. I started working in sales for a long-haul specialist called Quest Worldwide (think of a mini Trailfinders) in Kingston-Upon-Thames in 1997. I spent four great years sending people around the globe and using my spare time to do the same. My most memorable trips were to Nepal, Borneo and China, plus a 6-week truck trip from through Botswana and Namibia – quite simply superb.
After moving to the Midlands, there followed account and sales management roles at Galileo UK and Tailor Made Travel, where I ran the Solihull branch for 3 years. Then began my journey into the world of group tour wholesaling when I joined Action Tours as Sales & Marketing Manager in 2006. I certainly enjoyed my time there and learned a lot working with Linda Roberts and the team. During my tenure I was responsible for the majority of sales and established many new clients, as well as setting up the company website and significantly improving the brochure. However after 11 good years it became clear to me that I needed a new challenge. Denise Bridges at Albatross gave me that chance.
What is Albatross Travel and what is your role?
Albatross Travel, the largest part of the Albatross Group, is a business to business wholesaler specialising in the supply of hotel accommodation and tailored tour packages to coach and tour operators looking for tours to the UK, Ireland and Europe.
I joined 18 months ago into a new position as Lead Account Manager. Essentially my role is divided three ways: the sales side combining account management for my existing coach and tour operator clients with developing new business. I also Line Manage a team of Account Managers, and I’m a member of the B2B Senior Team working with the Heads of Department to help develop the business and improve its processes and performance.
Albatross places great emphasis on relationships both internally with its staff and externally with clients and suppliers. The aim is to be the company with the personal touch, a principle I hold dear. It’s challenging but we are definitely succeeding and it is great to witness the loyalty we receive from clients. The company invests significantly in staff development and has a highly talented team of people working very hard to help this succeed, and I’m proud to work alongside them.
Highlight a typical day in the office.
As most people would probably concede, there really isn’t a typical day in the office. I’m based at home but combine this with regular visits to the Albatross Head Office near Maidstone in Kent, as well as being out on the road visiting clients or on joint visits with my team.
My role combines selling tours, discussing itineraries and creating tour programmes; managing my clients, supporting my direct reports, attending product development and training, customer service support, tackling various challenges from Harry Potter availability to hotel boiler failures, and maybe just the occasional (!) email.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Balancing tasks when everything can seem to be the most important, and prioritising when you want to give your best every time. I receive great support from my colleagues across all departments at Albatross, which makes this challenge far more manageable
What do you enjoy the most?
-Developing positive relationships, with colleagues, clients and suppliers
-Competing for business
-Helping my team and seeing them progress.
-Learning and problem solving
-The satisfaction of seeing the business perform well
What is your favourite destination and do you holiday there?
I’ve always found travel exciting and fulfilling since backpacking around the world thirty years ago, and given the opportunity I’d always want to go exploring. Most recently we took a family holiday to Costa Rica to help celebrate a significant round number birthday. With its friendly locals, volcanic landscape, delicate eco-systems and enchanting wildlife, unspoilt coastlines and great coffee (& craft beers) this is somewhere I want to see again.
Closer to home, and with an eye on more practical access for coaches; I love North Wales especially Snowdonia and Anglesey. There’s so much variety, natural beauty and unique history and so easy to explore. Lastly, if all the coach tours are full don’t be disheartened, you could always cycle there (see picture of Birmingham to Aberdovery Cycle Ride – finishing line, 2nd from left)
How do you see the future of coach travel/holidays and the role the wholesaler plays?
It’s very easy to take a pessimistic view in light of recent obsession over Brexit, terrorist threats, congestion charges, price increases and the more you listen to the media the tougher it seems. However I do see real potential for growth in coach holidays. With an ageing population we have the perfect demographic platform for success. Air travel is less palatable for many and once independent travel also becomes too troublesome a coach holiday offers significant benefits.
We all need to focus on what we can influence, such as providing comfort, affordability, simplicity, convenience and above all enjoyment in everything we supply. Technology is key, and ‘on-line’ will become ever more dominant. The perilous state of high street retailers is a clear indicator that we need to harness this effectively.
Wholesalers exist because they offer knowledge, experience and a scale of working that saves time, improves efficiency and adds value. With so many businesses struggling for time and resource, I’m confident that a reliable wholesaler can be worth their weight in gold. However ultimately I believe it’s down to creating strong, lasting relationships, and I consider these to be the most valuable building blocks for our businesses. As a wholesaler linking a broad range of suppliers and customers we work extremely hard to build trusting, long-term relationships and these are key to our success.