From Travel Agent to Business Owner


When the travel agency Rosemary Chawke was office manager at closed, she jumped at the chance to become a Travel Counsellor. It’s now almost 13 years on and Rosemary still says it was the best decision she made throughout her career. 


From Travel Agent To Business Owner: We Talk To Rosemary Chawke


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Tell us about when you began your career in the travel industry? 

I began my career in the travel industry straight after I did my Leaving Cert. I moved to Dublin to study Travel And Tourism, and after I received my IATA Diploma I began working with USIT. After seven years there, I moved back to Clonmel and started with a local agency, Suir Travel, where I was office manager for six years.


What was the moment of realisation when you decided to become a Travel Counsellor? 

I decided to join Travel Counsellors when the office ceased to trade, almost 13 years ago. I had heard about Travel Counsellors before and had already met with Cathy Burke, the General Manager at Travel Counsellors Ireland. At that time though I had just gotten married and we were building our house. I was a little nervous at first about becoming self-employed, but I was very excited about Travel Counsellors. I just needed that little push. When the agency closed its doors I knew Travel Counsellors was for me.


What were the steps you had to take to join Travel Counsellors? 

When the agency closed I rang Cathy immediately and told her I was coming on board. Cathy was thrilled, at that time there were only 10 Travel Counsellors in Ireland. I met up with Cathy and she went through all of the details with me. Cathy showed me all of the systems and procedures, it was very exciting. I remember receiving the induction pack in the post and when I watched the DVD showcasing the UK Conference, and hearing everyone talk about why they love being a Travel Counsellor, I was so inspired. At that moment I knew for certain that Travel Counsellors was the right decision for me.


What is the biggest difference between your work life then and work life now? 

When I joined Travel Counsellors I didn’t have any children, so all of my time then was devoted to work and setting up my own business. In my previous job I used to work very long hours, so that wasn’t a problem for me. Certainly, the experience of being a manager in my old job helped drive me to succeed as a Travel Counsellor. In December, during my first year running my own business, I had my first baby, Katie. She was born on 21 December. I remember that time so clearly as it was my first January as a Travel Counsellor.  January was, and still is, one of the busiest months in the travel industry. It was a crazy time getting used to having a small baby and work, but I did it with the support of my family. 

Now I have two daughters, Katie is almost 12, and Laura is nine, and a fantastic work-life balance. I can bring the children to and from school and I am always available in the evenings to take them to their sports and hobbies. I have a very successful business but good time management is important to make my job and family life work well together. I know that if I was still working in a travel agency I would not be able to be there for the kids after school every day or be there during the holidays. Because of Travel Counsellors, my girls and I share some very special times.


What do you love about being a Travel Counsellor? 

I love the flexibility of running a very successful business and not missing out on my kids growing up. I never miss a school play or a football match. I wouldn’t have this anywhere else. In terms of the job itself, I still love that feeling I get when I make a booking and I have made so many special friends within Travel Counsellors. It’s just a very special team that I am very proud to be part of.


Is your family very supportive of your job? 

My family has always been a huge part of my success. My husband Gearóid runs a business in our local area and he always tells people about what I do and hands out my details. My mum does the same and always has my business cards in her handbag to give to everyone she meets. When I had my two girls my mum was a great help. She was always there to help look after the girls so I could carry on working. Even to this day she helps out. My sister Gillian has been working with me in the office for the past 11 years, helping me out on a part-time basis with admin. I would be lost without her.


Is there anything else you would like to add? 

My advice to anyone who is thinking about leaving their agency to join Travel Counsellors is go for it, don’t wait. It was one of the best decisions I have made in my career. It is a little nerve-wrecking at the beginning, but I still would recommend taking that chance. You do need to be willing to put in 12 months of hard work to get your business off to a good start, but I promise you won’t look back. The support from the head office is amazing and the friendships from other Travel Counsellors is something you won’t find anywhere else. Go for it.


If you are interested in becoming a Travel Counsellor and would like to learn more, click here visit the Travel Counsellors website or call their careers team at 0818 33 20 03 for a confidential chat.