Voice of Luxury: Carrier's Natasha Towey and Rick Milne

Q. How has the year started for Carrier?

Towey: It’s been a great peaks. Our trade partners really helped ensure we got off to a good start. Agents are really at the heart of Carrier. Bookings in January were very strong, up 22% compared to 2019, with revenue up 45%. We’ve already had four bookings worth £250,000 or more so far this year, all of which have come from the trade.

We introduced a strategy to grow our volume of higher-value bookings a couple of years back and that’s really paying off with a 140% increase in bookings over £80,000, compared with 2019. Most of our top-tier bookings come from our trade partners, who are true travel entrepreneurs. They have the networks and we want them to shine – we’re so proud of the partnerships we have with the trade. The team at Carrier works hard to support them [agents].

Milne: We are a B2B business at heart. Yes, we have a retail shop that does some direct business, but at heart we are a B2B, trade-centric business. Every department has a touchpoint with agents and that’s crucial.

Q. Natasha, you took over as managing director at the start of January. What are your priorities?

Our people are the priority, absolutely. I believe we have the best team we have ever had, and that’s why we win Luxury Team of the Year at the Aspire Awards. We recruited 19 people last year and did so early to ensure we got the top talent in the market, and 75% of those recruits are dedicated to the trade.

We bolstered our concierge team too and that’s a focus, as is our touring product, with two new starters in that team. We invested £100,000 in fam trips and educationals last year, with 70 trips in total. That has been great because the expertise in the team is just incredible and we can see the effect it’s having in conversions, which have improved by 45%.

My focus is on retaining and making sure we have a highly engaged and happy team. We’ve been working hard on the support we offer them. We have an anniversary scheme in place for staff and we’ve offered cost-of-living support over the last 12 months. We also have lots of wellbeing and mental health initiatives, which are crucially important.

Q. Is Carrier working on any other initiatives that might benefit agents?

Towey: We’ve got a big web project on the go at the moment. We’re investing £200,000 in a new web platform – the old one was dated and we hadn’t invested in it for some time. Our brand has evolved in that time, so the website has to follow to match that. We want to highlight the rise of the travel advisor on our website, as 75%-80% of our bookings are through the trade.

We recognise that, in our space, consumers will go to a travel agent, and we want to shine a light on that community on the new website. The website will also have an agent portal – it’s the first proper agent portal we’ll have had for the brand. That will house marketing collateral and online training. We previously used Dropbox to send out campaigns and marketing suites, but this will be a slicker approach.

Milne: We’re also opening up our offices to homeworkers who might want to come in and work in our environment. It all came about from a remark made by a homeworker and it really got me thinking, so as a result we’ve decided to open up some desks. We’re very proud of our culture and the atmosphere across the office, so to invite others in is a pleasure for us. We’ll offer three desks, which we’ve ringed off especially for this, and they’ll be available from Tuesdays to Thursdays when our agency sales executive Andy Tart will be in.

Towey: We want to welcome agents to work from our home rather than theirs. It all ties into the ethos of how we make people feel and we want to welcome in our partners to make use of our space.

Q. You’ve previously hinted that you might restrict general access to Carrier’s marketing. What’s the plan?

Milne: We invest a lot in our marketing and we think it’s important to ensure our partners have access to this and restrict it so that not just anyone can use our marketing. During the pandemic, we did open it up and gave all agents access – that was the right thing to do because everyone needed it. Now, who gets access isn’t just down to revenue, it’s also down to loyalty and us having that partnership approach in place.

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