The TTG Awards 2015 – A Finalist




My Journey to the TTG Awards

I remember the times that our management team would attend the TTG Awards and come back celebrating. They would get pizza delivered to the staff in the office to celebrate.

A Royal Departure

People thought I was crazy when I said I was going to leave the security of my job at the Royal Caribbean call centre in Weybridge to start my own business.   I had been there for 2 years and was one of the top achievers. I never wanted to go into ‘sales’ and still it makes me shudder at the sound of the word, but my title as a Personal Cruise Specialist, kept me focusing on my passion rather than the sales targets.

Royal Caribbean Staff Christmas Party 2012
Royal Caribbean Staff Christmas Party 2012 at Sandown, Esher
Ships & Champagne Flavia Gray Cruise Expert TTG Awards
Sitting at my desk in the Royal Caribbean call centre, with a little help from our friends.

I loved my job, at least talking about cruising and helping people plan their next holiday was great. As I managed 5 cruises during my time there in addition to becoming part of a promotions team showing people around the Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruise ships when they were in Southampton and Harwich, I certainly had plenty to talk about.

Ships & Champagne Flavia Gray Cruise Expert TTG Awards
My first cruise on Grandeur of the Seas had me hooked.

Being in a call centre environment was very tough for me. The restrictions that were placed on us with our call monitoring really frustrated me. I felt that given a free reign to do and say what I wanted and take as long as I like to do so, would really help improve the rapport between myself and the guest and I was convinced if I was allowed to do this, people would not want to book elsewhere ever again.

Cruise Franchisee

I was so excited about being the owner of a travel franchise. I got my business cards, headed paper, website and all the access to training and booking every cruise line imaginable. At first, when my phone would ring, I just froze. At Royal Caribbean we had a tick list of things we had to say, so although it wasn’t scripted, you had a guide to follow. I was scared of what people would ask me about as I only knew three brands.

Ships & Champagne Flavia Gray Cruise Expert TTG Awards
At the helm of my own business, I introduced myself to the world at the Black Cherry Fair in Chertsey.

I used my newly found love and soon to be fiancé as a distraction for the first few months. He was helping financially and looking after him was a full time job with his forgetfulness, clumsiness and type one diabetes. We decided to start a family. Well, I had my 13 year old daughter but my partner didn’t have children and with me fast approaching 41, I felt we needed to make this a priority. It worked! 6 weeks into the pregnancy the cracks started to show in the relationship and it ended shortly after.

Sinking Ship

This left me in a position where I had no job, no income, no savings, a teenage daughter and I was pregnant at 40. I think it was inevitable that depression followed shortly after.  The next 7 months were a blur and most days I just couldn’t face talking to anyone. I hate to think how many bookings I let go in that time, but I just spent days and days on the sofa watching tv and longing for the day my baby would be here. I was hoping that once the baby was born I would be in the right frame of mind to get stuck into the business. I can only thank from the bottom of my heart, those customers/friends who stuck with me during that time.

Set Sail Again

Ships & Champagne Flavia Gray Cruise Expert TTG Awards
Joshua at one week old almost to the hour, we made our first booking together.

When Joshua was 1 week old we made our first booking. It was almost like my customers pushed me into working. They were having none of this “I’m tired” stuff, they wanted to book a cruise and that was that. They could have gone anywhere else, but they wanted to book with me. I didn’t understand why, I thought I was still being punished for something I had done in a former life, but anyway I went with it and the bookings started coming in.

A lot of travel agents thought my success down to bring my Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises customers with me, but this was not the case. I think about three of my original customers found me through various ways online via social media and another had become a good friend of mine before I left, so naturally stuck with me. I have had a few customers come to me through the GoCruise website and a few web leads but the majority of my business, in fact 98% of my business is referrals. I have never placed an ad anywhere as it’s not been necessary.  You can see further proof of this on my testimonials page.

Being A Cruise Expert

I love my job and being a cruise expert means I have to spend as much time getting to know the differences between the different cruise lines and which ones suit who. It’s not just as straightforward as which cruise line, that is just the first factor. You then have to think about destination, time of year and price. All of these things will have an impact as to the type of people that will be found onboard and if you don’t match the right person with the right cruise, it will be there worst nightmare.

Ships & Champagne Flavia Gray Cruise Expert TTG Awards
Joshua at the age of 8 months on his second educational cruise. This one was Ruby Princess.

Cruises can cost a significant amount of money and in some cases people take one in a lifetime or at least every couple of years.   People work so hard for their money and sometimes spend months if not years planning the cruise, so you don’t want them to feel disappointed in any way with their chosen cruise. I have and will continue to talk someone out of a cruise if I think they will not enjoy it. Sometimes a cheap price can really pull people into booking a cruise, but if you know your customer is very frail and cant stand the cold, you cannot let him go to the arctic in winter. No amount of profit is worth that. What is the point in going on a cruise that you cannot enjoy the destinations?

Happy, Blessed and Thankful

So nearly three years into the business, I am happy, I enjoy my job if you can call it that because I love it so much. Obviously to be an expert it is imperative that I get on as many cruise ships as possible so what is there not to love?   Then you talk to guests about cruises, again an absolute pleasure.

Ships & Champagne Flavia Gray Cruise Expert TTG Awards
Going full circle, from working with Royal Caribbean to being a guest travel agent onboard the brand new Quantum of the Seas.

To top it all off, I have been absolutely blessed with being nominated for not one, but two of the travel industry’s most prestigious awards Cruise Agent of the Year and Travel Agent of the Year – Independent. The TTG Travel Awards 2015 is organised by the industry’s leading trade magazine, Travel Trade Gazette and boasts a unique awards format, with the main ceremony at the Lyceum Theatre, West End followed by an after-party at The Savoy, London.

The TTG Travel Awards are regarded as the universal benchmark of quality within the travel industry; the rigorous judging process involves over 30,000 agent ratings combined with judging from elite industry experts, making the TTG Awards the most coveted industry accolade.
“The TTG Travel Awards really are the blue riband of the travel industry, celebrating those businesses who are truly on top of the world when it comes to travel and tourism. This year we are building on their success by once again announcing our winners centre stage at iconic West End theatre the Lyceum, home of The Lion King, before a spectacular after-party at The Savoy. I’d personally like to extend my congratulations to [for making it into our hotly-contested shortlist and I am looking forward to finding out the winners on the night!”
Daniel Pearce, Managing Director, TTG Media Ltd

When I heard about it I was stunned.  It is an absolute honour to have been recognised in this way by the industry and I have already noticed a difference in the trust new customers have in me.  If I am one of the lucky winners, I am sure it will have even more of a positive effect on my business.

Travel Agent of the Year - Independent Flavia Gray Cruise Agent of the Year Flavia Gray

The awards night is on 28 September at the Lyceum Theatre with an after party at the Savoy. I am not expecting to win as I was totally shocked that I was even nominated once, let alone twice, but I am looking forward to an incredible evening with the industries top names and to find out who the secret celebrity host will be on the night.

“congratulations from all of us at 107.8 Radio Jackie”

Jacki

Ships & Champagne Flavia Gray Cruise Expert TTG Awards
Lucy, Josh and I at Polo in the Park 2014 courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

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3 comments

  1. This is an example that determination and a drive for success reaps rewards. Flavia loves her job and has pushed very hard to balance a family and a business. I booked a cruise recently with Flavia and everything worked like clockwork . I prayer on 28 Sept that she can perhaps be nominated for a top prize.

  2. HI Flavia Thank you for sending me this email You look sensational in the red dress I am so sory to read about your ex I know you will not it happen again if you would like a flower for the 28th or wha t ever PLEASE let me know I do so hope you win Divid x

  3. well done, Flavia – what a terrible time you’ve had. so happy to see you looking so glam and contented with your 2 beautiful children. Hope you get top prize. Sheila.

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