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Dear Diary…

We have officially closed the books on the 2009 version of the Travel Agent Diaries. Hopefully, you learned a thing or two and were able to benefit from the success (and failure) of others. To me, one of the best things about Travel Research Online is that most of our members are not afraid to let other see when they fall down. Life is never perfect and we all learn from our mistakes; here, we are also able to learn from the mistakes of others. Mistakes and failures are never fun; but they are offset by the successes we all achieve. And looking back on 2009, you can see successes in each weekly episode of the Travel Agent Diary series. 2009 was perhaps the most challenging year ever for the travel industry and the courage to share their trip with our readers is to be applauded.

But 2010 is here and we have a new panel of travel professionals willing to let you follow along on their ride. What does 2010 hold? Who knows? It likely will be a challenging year and as I have said, we are now living with a “new normal”—although we are still not sure exactly what that is at this point. I want to take this week to introduce our latest guinea pigs for the Travel Agent Diaries. We sought out a varied group and we certainly got them.

Stephanie Lee is the Operations Manager at TQ Agents—a host agency. While she was born into the industry (her parents had the agency), she returned after several years of finding herself and is now charged with building TQ Agents.

Jamie Bachrach is a home based agent who owns Wandering Puffin (he explains in his first column). Jamie has been an agent for 14 years and only moved home two years ago. He specializes is European independent travel and more specifically Eastern Europe.

Jennifer Byrne owns The Tropical Travelers and does not specialize in Eastern Europe. With 14 years in the industry, Jennifer is following her passion for the sun and imparting it on her clients. As an aside, she has one of the best designed travel sites I have seen.

April Scarlott is a lifetime Houston area resident, travel and adventure junkie. April is somewhat new to the industry after a successful stint as a Realtor. She is a partner at Thrillseekers Travel Club which arranges group tours for other travel and adventure enthusiasts.

Graig Wilkins owns Mouse World Vacations, a Disney travel division of Zzyzx Travel.  Graig jumped into the travel business after 22 years as a store manager for a national office supply company.   He is a graduate of the Travel Academy in Minneapolis MN and has now booked over 200 Disney trips to every park, ship, and resort around the world.  And if you are curious (as I was) Zzyzx Travel was named after “Zzyzx Rd.”– just off the I-15 Freeway near Baker, CA.

So, there you have it–our five fearless travel professionals who will share with you the successes and failures encountered over the course of 2010. It is a brave move. Please be sure to check for new columns every Tuesday (starting on February 19, 2010) and please be sure to leave your comments. With the growth of the home based market, it is such a good feeling to know that you are not alone.  Please join me in welcoming and supporting Steph, Jamie, Jenn, April, and Graig to the 2010 Edition of The Travel Agent Diaries!

PS–Go Saints!

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