President/Owner Travel Consultant, Pack Your Bags Travel, Pinckney, Michigan
Describe your career as a travel agent. How long have you been in the business? What attracted you to it?
I am an Independent Contractor working with my host agency and it has been amazing for me and my business. I loved to travel myself and now I get paid to help others do what I love so much! I have been in the Travel Industry for 12 years, started in Corporate then Government and now my own agency.
What is your approach to serving clients?
Education is key. I educate my clients on locations based on my experience and all options for them. I work very closely with all my clients from the very beginning to the end. I send personal thank you notes upon their return and follow up with an email asking for feedback. I offer referral bonuses for each deposited reservation. I also have a loyalty program for my repeat customers. I believe in extra touches and follow-ups.
What are some of your best practices in selling cruise travel?
Listen to your clients. Find out all the qualifying items needed to sell each brand carefully. There are many options out there so you really need to learn what lines fit what markets. Market your groups and give yourself the time you need to promote properly.
What is your biggest challenge when selling cruises and how do you overcome it?
Organization was the biggest obstacle for me. I attended a seminar at sea with a wonderful agent who does many group cruises and she told me to use spreadsheets and a binder for each group. It works, she is the most organized and successful person I knew in the industry and we ran with the idea. I do it with all my groups, as well as my sales that are other than cruise.
What has been a career highlight, thus far?
Becoming a business owner. I worked in Corporate and Government initially but always knew my heart was in leisure. I took classes and learned what I could. I went to travel school, yes, they did exist 12 years ago and feel it was the best move I made. I was very scared to go out on my own, but I never looked back. My business is booming. I have doubled my business in two years. I have hit 78 out of the top 100 folks in my host agency. I keep up with all current events and I travel. I travel a lot! That has been the biggest advantage to my success. Until you step foot in a location, taste the food being offered, or experience an excursion native to the location you will never know fully what you are selling. My opinion, of course.
How has your CLIA membership and/or professional development helped you in your career?
I have appreciated all the training and conferences with CLIA, I feel they are wealth of information along with all suppliers affiliated with them. They also sponsor agents to help them gain knowledge in the industry, we have come to love.
What cruising trends are you seeing?
More exotic stuff. No longer do all folks only want Caribbean destinations. My clients want unique and something no one else has done or very few. Many requests for Cuba.
What is your fondest personal cruise memory?
My fondest personal cruise memory is my seminar at sea with Norwegian Cruise line and my host agency. It was great opportunity first to visit some islands in the Southern Caribbean, but the thing I appreciated the most were the folks I met there. I sat with some of the most experienced agents and made some very good friends. We shared stories and laughs and keep in touch to this day. I am very thankful for these friendships that move past the events. They were a wealth of information.
Any last thoughts?
I believe in my heart that travel is where I belong. I feel it in my bones every day! I wake up in the morning and cannot wait to help someone with a vacation of a lifetime. I am a firm believer in giving back. Not every sale will earn you money, but it will earn a lifetime of good returns. I rely today on referrals and repeat business. I would not change a thing. It has not come without its challenges but only makes me a stronger agent every single day.
My tag line is I would gladly live out of a suitcase if it meant I could see the world. So very true.