Paul Kelbie is buzzing with excitement – even during the most severe restrictions on travel in living memory.
The virus has had a devastating impact on the travel industry with many traditional travel agents either fighting to survive or losing their businesses.
But Paul, from Essex in the UK, has been a homeworking InteleTravel agent since June 2020 and has a different story to tell.
In November 2020, when most outbound travel from the UK was banned, he notched up tens of thousands of pounds worth of bookings, mainly for future trips to Dubai and the Maldives.
A feature in The Daily Telegraph on his company led to more enquiries and another Dubai booking.
“If we can do this during a travel ban, just think what it could be like when the restrictions are completely off and people really start travelling,” he says.
“I’ve told the girls to be ready for some really big months.”
The girls are Paul’s wife Rachel and sister-in-law Sarah who, with Paul, make up this family business, thejetsetlifestyle.co.uk
Paul, 35, is the chatty salesman who uses his contacts to bring in the business, while Rachel and Sarah are the operations team who process the bookings and use social media to attract more people in.
“We have a pretty impressive Instagram page and Rachel does the posts on there. That can really help with business. We’ve also brought on a couple of influencers, too.”
Paul has had his own recruitment firm for several years and joined InteleTravel initially just to save money on his own holidays.
“I was then on the phone to one of my recruitment clients. I told him about it and, to cut a long story short, he wanted a villa holiday and I managed to find him one for a much cheaper price than he could find elsewhere. I made nearly 2,000 Euros for the business and that was the start.”
He brought on Rachel and Sarah and started to work at it as a proper business.
“They are both young Mums working from home and this lifestyle really works for us. We have a two-year-old Leo and it means I can see my son more. We can be hard-working and committed, but also work around our family.”
All three have been bowled over by the training offered by InteleTravel.
“Of course, we all passed our mandatory training before doing any selling, but the on-going training is so impressive.
“Every time we do a webinar it blows your mind – it’s so exciting what you can do. I think Sarah is on every single webinar!”
Although they have flexibility in their working days, the three have introduced a structure that works for them.
“On a Monday at 9am, we’ll catch up on everything that is live and talk about what needs to be done in the week. At Friday at 1pm, we’ll talk about what we’ve achieved and what needs to be done.
“Of course, we’re talking all the time in between and we might be doing a quote on whatsapp while we’re in bed, but having that formal Monday and Friday meeting works well for us.”
Paul styles his business as a concierge service, selling mainly upmarket holidays.
“I’m not pushy with people. I often message them to connect and ask them to think about us when booking their next holiday.
“I’m just giving them an opportunity and they have nothing to lose.
“There is very little risk for people who want to give it a crack at being an agent. The outgoings are small and if you do what you are supposed to do and don’t make money, the company will even give you your money back.”
The opportunity to join InteleTravel came at a fortuitous time for Paul. Covid-19 had a devastating impact on his recruitment business and he was forced to lay off several staff members.
Now he had something new to talk about to his vast network of friends and contacts.
“I loved recruitment but I was losing a bit of passion for it before this pandemic. Then that had a big impact on business. I place recruitment consultants into recruitment agencies. Clients were saying they loved what we had done for them in the past but there were less vacancies and they just didn’t need us anymore.
“So InteleTravel came at the right time and was a bit of a lifeline for me. Now I can see the potential and we are all so excited about making it work.”
Paul knows that he is fortunate to have friends and contacts who have the money to travel to exotic holiday destinations and acknowledges that many will not be suited to working as a travel agent from home.
“Not everyone can be Paul Kelbie,” he says. “I love people and I love talking and closing a deal. I’ve also got a huge amount of contacts. If you are not outgoing and you don’t have the contacts, you may struggle.”
Paul is the first to admit he’s had a colourful background, with many highs which included a stab at pop stardom and some low periods, but has never been more excited about the opportunity he now has.
“I love working and proving people wrong. I drifted a bit until I was 25. I had a job coaching kids at football, which was probably one of the best jobs you can have, but apart from that I also worked for a season in Magaluf, went through a bad time when my Dad passed away and I got into a lot of debt.
“I was a vocalist in a band – we did an NME tour and were on Channel 4!
“But after a while I knew I wanted to do more. I was 23 or 24, living at home with my Mum in a two-bedroom house, sometimes sharing with my brother. I’d met the woman who I knew I was going to marry and it was time to get sensible.’
Through a combination of chutzpah, chat and talent, he got into recruitment and then set up his own successful business, enjoying an enviable lifestyle until the virus struck.
“Now it’s a new start and I want to look back and instead of saying 2020 got me, say it’s the year I levelled up again.
“When you get a taste of this, you really want more.”