How to become a holiday fixer

Do you want to change sector? Britt-Marie Monks jumped from telecomms to travel after being made redundant and is keen to help others looking to take the leap. She speaks to ahead of her session at Return to Work Week.


Britt-Marie Monks has had a more turbulent start than many when it comes to running her award-winning luxury travel consultancy. Not only has she had to deal with Covid and its aftermath, but she also had to overcome breast cancer while also bringing up her daughter and growing her business.

Now she is looking to pass on her experience to others who want to follow in her footsteps. In March she launched a website to help others sign up to become agents, working under her guidance and mentorship, but as independents. The aim is to offer all the benefits of a franchise model, but without the franchise fee. This is based on Britt-Marie’s own experience of being a franchisee. 

She herself had no experience in the travel industry before throwing herself into it as the result of redundancy after maternity leave. She had been working in sales in the telecommunications sector for around 15 years, with her last role in full-time employment being as an events account manager. 

She managed to negotiate redundancy after returning from maternity leave to a restructured, merged role with more responsibility.  She used her redundancy money to venture into the travel industry. “I loved researching different places and finding unique ones. My husband said why not turn that passion into a business. Had it not been for the redundancy money I would not be doing what I am doing now,” she says.

Britt-Marie researched different franchises she could take out which would offer her the tried and tested business she felt she needed given it was a step into a new sector for her. She signed up with one in 2016. The franchise was fairly expensive – around £20K – but she hoped it would give her a foot in the door. As it was not a household name she had to build up her business from the ground and she felt she was discouraged from exploring her interest in developing a more niche travel business based in part on her own experience of getting married abroad. Britt-Marie didn’t want to let the idea go, however.  Within a few weeks she had her first booking for a honeymoon in the Maldives and was recommended by that client to her friends. Over time her reputation grew, but within 18 months she realised that the franchise was holding her back and that she wanted more independence. She decided to go it alone. In August 2018 she left the franchise on the basis that a lot of what they had promised had not materialised. 

Breast cancer and Covid

She became part of a consortium of independent travel agents working from home and The Honeymoon Fixer, later the Honeymoon and Holiday Fixer, started getting a lot of press coverage and building a strong reputation. The business was going from strength to strength when in June 2019 Britt-Marie was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had recently taken on her first homeworking agent on a self-employed basis. Another followed just after her diagnosis and she has continued to build her group gradually through her network. Because of the cancer treatment Britt-Marie was not able to dedicate as much time to the business as she had hoped. But she says that the good thing about working for herself was that she could work when she felt up to it and didn’t have to get sick notes. She adds that she was open with her clients, many of whom she knew well. “Everyone was so lovely,” she says. 

After treatment, Britt-Marie [left] was told she was in remission. Six weeks later Covid hit. “That was more stressful than running a business with cancer,” she says. She tried to navigate her way through it, but the holiday industry almost ground to a halt.  All parts of the travel industry were focused on saving themselves. Britt-Marie worked tirelessly without pay and had to pay back commission on holidays that were already booked. There was some furlough support, but she says the independent travel industry really suffered and felt forgotten. “A lot of independent agents went under,” she says, “and so did their suppliers even when we started coming out of Covid.”

During the first lockdown Britt-Marie focused on refreshing the business. She encouraged her team to build their product knowledge and to keep their customers up to date with what was happening. Britt-Marie herself was often on the radio talking about the industry and did several Facebook Lives to keep her business’ name in the public arena. 

When the world started opening up again – although unevenly – the business exploded. “We were astronomically busy,” she says. There was so much pent-up demand to travel and people were looking to agents to help them negotiate all the Covid-related complexities.  “We were ready,” says Britt-Marie, adding that she had built a really good virtual assistant team during lockdown.

Being realistic

This year she has been focusing on growing her existing customer base and on working with like-minded businesses. Britt-Marie is passionate about helping other mums to build their travel business, but, due to her own experience, she wants to remove the franchise fee element.  “There is so much talent out there, especially among women, and women are not always given the same chances as men. They don’t want to go back to the corporate world after having kids. They want to have more choices,” she says. She adds that she doesn’t see why women have to pay high franchise fees to get into the travel industry, like she did. Instead she offers those who join her team support, mentoring and advice. There is a fee for administrative services,  but there is no joining fee. Everyone is self employed and works on commission.

Britt-Marie, now aged 41, is realistic about the need for those who join the team to work hard to make their name in what can be a highly competitive industry, but she is also able to offer lots of advice based on her own experience and she has commercial agreements with lots of holiday companies. In return she asks that prospective agents joining the team have a business plan to show they have thought things through thoroughly.  The first six months to a year are a hard slog, she admits, but she thinks it can work well around a family.  Some people are looking to run a travel business on the side of other work and build it gradually, she adds. 

The hardest part of her job is when people don’t get their business off the ground because it turns out not to be the industry for them. “Not everyone is successful,” says Britt-Marie, “and sales is not for everyone.” But she is very excited when things go well. “When I help to make it happen for someone it is a pinch me moment. However, I try not to get carried away and promote only the success stories. I try not to oversell it. It is difficult to predict the market and it can be quite a volatile and vulnerable industry,” she says. She thought the cost of living crisis would see an increase in cancellations this year, but she says that hasn’t happened and she has also seen a surge in last-minute bookings. However, 2024 is looking quieter. Nevertheless, she expects things to start easing in 2025. 

Despite the ups and downs, which are affecting many sectors, Britt-Marie has no regrets about changing sectors and joining the travel industry. “It’s an amazing industry. I am very thankful I am part of it,” she says.

*If you are interested in becoming a holiday fixer like Britt-Marie, click here for more information. Picture credit: The Honeymoon and Holiday Fixer. Britt-Marie will be speaking at’s Return to Work Week on 27th September. Find out more here.

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