Travel Agent Tales: How Michael Hughes became a top cruise seller

Travel Agent Tales: How Michael Hughes became a top cruise seller

From baker to cruise agent, the travel consultant reveals what inspired his career change 

Michael Hughes' career began in a bakery, but now – having joined Hays Travel as a homeworker operating as a personal travel consultant in 2019 – he's enjoying selling life on the open seas as one of the company's top cruise sellers. Here he shares his story.

Q. Why did you leave a career in hospitality?
A. I needed a change. When I finished school I worked in a bakery full-time. I was working in the bakery cafe, then moved to the shop and became manager. I was there for 10 years. While working there I always used to plan our holidays. I planned a trip to Sicily in 2018 for my partner’s birthday. After that, one of my friends asked me to plan a trip to Barcelona. I just fell in love with doing it and thought I could do it as a career.

Q. Within months of starting out, the world went into lockdown. What was that like?
A. Even though it was slow in my first year, that helped me in a way. I didn’t know how to cancel and amend a holiday, so I learnt [during the pandemic] and it gave me time to find my feet.

Norwegian Cruise Line updates SailSAFE protocols
Quark Expeditions launches season with new ship Ultramarine
Carnival Cruise Line’s full US fleet is back in service

Q. What did the homeworker training involve?
A. I joined Hays Travel Personal Travel Consultants and went on the two-week Travel Academy programme in November 2019. I was taught about the systems and how to approach customers. There was loads of role play and learning airport codes. I had no experience of using the phonetic alphabet so I struggled with that! 

We learnt about social media and how to use Facebook to generate business. We were each given a mentor and I came back ready to go. Our social media pages went live on the last day. I just wanted to start putting posts up straight away.

Q. What was it like starting out?
A. I was panicking a bit when I took my first booking. I took the deposit and my mentor loaded it for me and sent all my confirmation details so I could see how it was done. My previous shop experience really helped as I had customer service skills and was used to talking to people. As soon as I got back from the training I put loads of business cards in the bakery and thanks to the staff there I gained lots of customers. My first week as a homeworker was quiet and in December 2019 I only took two or three bookings, but things changed in January. 

I was wondering if I’d made the wrong move, but as soon as January peaks came along I was flying

Q. What inspired you to sell cruise holidays?
A. In July 2021, I went on Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas on a fam trip around the Greek islands. I had never been on a cruise or sold one before. I didn’t know what to expect. I was speaking to people on board and they were saying they’d been on 18 cruises or went on four cruises a year. It clicked that this was a really good clientele to have. In the past I’d had cruise enquiries but didn’t know where to start or how to talk about cruise. After the cruise I was talking to customers about my own experience. I was uploading pictures of the Greek islands and that drummed up interest among clients. I took two or three big bookings and it snowballed from there.

Michael Hughes Hays Travel 2

Q. How have your cruise sales developed?
A. I just sell cruises now. I've had loads of training on Zoom; Hays gets people from the cruise lines to talk to us about the product. After the fam trip, I started to look at P&O Cruises out of Southampton. The line had an offer of a 5% deposit and that really helped to get bookings. My top sellers now are MSC Cruises and P&O Cruises. 

I’ve just been on MSC Virtuosa, which MSC invited me on because I’d been selling so much of the cruise line

Q: How many cruise bookings do you make on average each month?
A: In May, I booked 327 passengers on cruises, worth a total of around US$189,000. In the first week alone I booked 100 passengers on P&O Cruises and then in the following three weeks I sold 227 passengers on MSC Cruises’ sailing to Spain and France in October. MSC put the cruise on Virtuosa out of Southampton on sale with a kids-go-free offer. For a family of four it was about US$830. I put it on social media and it went nuts, I was taking so many bookings!

I am trying to beat myself each month; it makes selling more fun.

Calling all Travel Agents

Do you have a Travel Agent Tale to share? Tell us about a day in your life, what inspired you to become a travel agent, what are the challenges of working in the travel trade in the GCC market and what are the perks? Share your story and let us promote your services. If interested, email sarah@connectingtravel.com with 'Travel Agent Tales' in the subject bar.

Share article

View Comments