Ellie Fowler: Inspiring and Successful in the Travel Industry
You have been named as one of TTG Media’s 30 Under 30 what an achievement! Tell us more about your career journey.
At the beginning of 2020 we started to really see the results of all the hard work, as I was nominated for the Welsh Wedding Awards 2020 for ‘Honeymoon Organiser of the Year’ and won!!! Then a few weeks later the business was a finalist in the Business Growth South Wales Awards for ‘Rising Star of the Year’. Followed by me then being selected for the TTG Top 30 under 30. It’s fair to say 2020 was off to a flying start!
Being named in TTG Media’s 30 Under 30 is my greatest career achievement yet, and I am honoured to have been specially selected in this year’s program, among some other incredible candidates.
My career journey to this point has not been straightforward and I have needed to take on many challenges. In particular, I have had to learn a great deal as both a travel agent and a business owner, which as you can imagine comes with complexities such as customer service, communication, managing financial accounts, digital marketing and recruitment, to name a few.
In order to gain the various skills I have today, I have taken a ‘self-teach’ approach and often jump head first into any new task or challenge. As social media is now such a big part of everyone’s lives and a great way to market your business, I have spent endless hours creating and developing our company’s social media across many platforms.
For the past three years I have worked extremely hard to grow the business we are today. We opened our travel agency shop in February 2017 with a complete re-brand and have gone on to win several awards and create a ‘business family’ with a number of employees and home workers.
The success and sustainability of our business is centered around our local community and the support we get from our customers on both a business and personal level. We believe that good customer service and communication are vital to succeed, along with an ability to act quickly and adapt to changing markets and trends.
Whilst the current pandemic is causing major disruption to our industry, we are confident that our community will come together and help the business take off once again, post-lockdown.
Before starting up The Travel Business in Newport, did you imagine a career in tourism?
I have always had a passion for travel and tourism, as it is something my family has done for generations. I did not, however, imagine that when studying my Education with Welsh degree, at Cardiff Metropolitan University, that I would actually go on to pursue this as my own career.
Initially, after graduating, I thought I would go on to become a teacher but I realised early on that this was not the career for me. I had several sales/managerial type roles and always worked my way up in a company, but still deep down I knew I wanted to start a travel agency. I decided, after a lot of thinking and planning, to give up my well paid job, company car and good benefits package to start The Travel Business. It has been the best career decision I ever made. I love growing the company and cannot wait to see where it can go in the future.
How do you think the current pandemic will change the way people book travel?
This global pandemic has been truly devastating for most businesses, especially small firms like ours. The travel industry has been one of the worst hit by COVID-19 and travel agencies around the UK are feeling the effects and may continue to do so for months to come.
I personally believe that once countries begin to gain control over the virus and lockdown restrictions are lifted, we will see two types of people; the ones who cannot wait to get on the next available flight, and those who will be very sceptical of flying for the foreseeable future.
It’s important during these times that we at The Travel Business remain as flexible as possible for our customers, to retain confidence and allow bookings to be amended according to the ongoing situation, giving people the peace of mind they need.
In the short-term it is likely that UK breaks will be a key area of demand and our business is geared to offer holidays both in the UK and internationally. Another element of our business is incoming tours to Wales, which we manage through our other business, Celtic Travel. This is something we have been doing successfully for groups from all over the global for many years. We organise tours, music & sporting events and sight seeing around Wales. Groups have already rescheduled and are hopeful to visit Wales in winter 2020 and at the beginning of 2021.
I think once global travel reopens and people start to see it is safe, it will pick back up and be busier than ever before. In the short term, however, we will notice the sad closure of many travel companies, airlines and see much stricter safety procedures for airports and flights.
What skills do you believe will become more important following this pandemic?
During the pandemic I have tried to remain positive and focus my attention on enhancing our social media, blogs, administration and website – to name just a few. So, I have tried to take the time to get all of this done, so we can hit the ground running once the world reopens.
A key skill that we believe will be vital post pandemic will be communication. We want to be reassuring customers and rebuilding confidence in the travel industry. We see social media as being a successful method of providing this reassurance and it’s important that social media posts are not solely focused on holiday deals, but also on informing customers on areas such as safety, airport procedures, airline policies and so forth.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start a career in tourism and why it’s such an exciting industry to work in?
I would absolutely recommend a career in travel and tourism to anyone, as there are incredible opportunities on offer. It can be tough, but it’s an enjoyable industry to be a part of and has a true sense of community where everyone supports each other.
I am lucky enough to be able to attend trade shows, events, educational trips to various countries which makes this job so much fun. It is an industry that is always evolving and changing, which keeps it exciting.
There are so many roles within travel and tourism, and you can often explore so many areas under one job!
If you found this blog interesting make sure you read other blogs related to COVID-19 from NTG: ‘Challenges and the importance of skills in tourism sub-sectors during and after Covid-19‘, ‘Tourism Top calls for a reset of destinations and the need for young talents‘ and ‘VAC 2020’s message for the future – recover better but differently‘.