Many years ago, a teenage Gareth Southgate was advised by his then-Crystal Palace youth team manager to give up football and be a travel agent instead.
We think the great man has plenty of transferable skills that would stand him in good stead for a career in travel.
And, apart from the fact that agents love bookings and footballers don’t, there are lots of similarities between managing the England team and selling holidays.
#1 Everyone thinks they can do your job
We’re a nation of amateur England managers who all think they know best. Some apply the same mentality to booking a holiday. When the national team does well, the criticism is forgotten. When a holiday booking goes awry, the nation picks up the phone to its local independent agent to sort it out. And why are family and friends the worst culprits?
#2 Summer 2020 didn’t go to plan
Just as Southgate had to change his plans when Euro 2020 was pushed back to 2021, agents had the headache of rebooking clients’ holidays last year. Many times. But we don’t need to tell you that.
#3 Image is everything
A good agent knows a perfectly presented high-street or online window display creates the right impression and instils public confidence, making people feel you’re trustworthy and know what you’re doing. While other managers choose to wear a comfy track suit on the side of the pitch, Gareth’s tailored garments always cut a professional look.
#4 Customers follow your trends
*Warning: this section contains unnecessary reliance on percentage increases and overly-used buzzwords that some readers may find annoying
Clients look to agents to tell them what’s new, on-trend and ‘instagrammable’ in the world of travel. Marks and Spencer reported a 35% rise in demand for pinstripe waistcoats immediately after Southgate first wore his at the 2018 World Cup. During the Euros, retailers say they’ve seen a 250% rise in sales of polka dot ties. Both John Lewis and Matalan have reported a ‘surge in demand’, with the ties selling out overnight after Wednesday’s semi.
#5 Diplomatic skills are essential
Some of those questions Gareth gets asked before and after the match are just plain daft, but the man simply smiles and calmly makes his point. You’ve all had to do the same with that one client, right?
#6 Tactics win the game… and clinch the sale
You clever agents are always getting creative in order to beat the opposition and secure a sale, by innovatively throwing in some added value or conjuring up an unexpected surprise. Like Gareth, you know the key to success is working tactically, thinking on your feet and perfecting those set pieces that take years of practice.
#7 It’s not over ’til the ref blows the whistle
Things could be going smoothly but a last-minute hiccup could change everything. You’re a caring lot and you want to make sure your client is well looked after. Which can mean dealing with customer who’s suddenly realised their passport is out of date, or an in-resort issue. And don’t get us started about COVID regs. Only when the client is home and happy can you fully relax.
#8 It often goes to extra time
We know how many hours you put in on behalf of your clients. Hanging on the phone for ages to check something with a supplier or taking a late-night enquiry. You deserve a medal.
#9 Last-minute substitutions are common
Never in the history of travel have agents had to deal with so many 11th-hour itinerary changes. With ‘COVID-safe’ destinations being relegated at the drop of a hat, clients who had a long-standing booking to Portugal can suddenly find themselves on the plane to Palma, thanks to their clever agent’s last-minute handiwork to ensure they get away.
#10 You know the value of Sterling