The past 15 plus years of my life have been spent thinking about the tropics way more than most people should. Some might call it all consuming or an obsession. I call it passion. I’ll admit, I was bitten by the tropical bug early on and have weathered the storm of commission caps, cuts, wars, disease and recession ever since.
I was a year into college with little direction and happened to talk to the right person at the right time. A friend of a friend took a job at a local Caribbean tour operator and it sounded interesting. I applied and started my new Caribbean reservations position within the month. I always had a love of hotels and would drag my family around to see them on vacation. They thought it was odd, I didn’t really think too much of it except for the fact that these resorts conjured up images of glamour and a world different from my own.
Within a short time, I was devouring any and all Caribbean and Mexico hotel brochures I could find. I would memorize everything about the hotels and the locations that might help me do my job better. That position started my insatiable love of all things tropical and was my first stepping stone to one day owning my own tropical travel agency.
Over the years, I was fortunate enough to work in several local travel agencies and cruise reservation centers, as well as the original tour operator. I gained knowledge of the inner workings of the industry and started a mental checklist of how I wanted to do it better. My number one priority was to specialize. I only had an interest in tropical locations and found it so easy to talk to my clients about these destinations. So, when it was finally time to start my own company, I decided specialization was the wave of the future. I wanted to offer my clients detailed information that they wouldn’t get from the ”we do it all” travel agent down the street. I made it a point to travel as much as possible. And when I vacation, I set aside several days for my own FAMs.
My agency is primarily Internet based and I do work from home. I’ve toyed with the idea of moving to an office space, but haven’t found a real need for it just yet. I currently have six outside agents who share my passion for the tropics. It’s an ever changing industry that resembles a roller coaster on most days. This year has been one of the worst rides yet. But I try to look at it optimistically. People are going to travel. I just need to keep my name in front of them as much as possible so they think of me when they plan their tropical trip.
I intend to grow my business in 2010. I am considering bringing in some new independent agents who want to go the extra mile for their clients and bring something new and exciting to the table for my agency. I have lots of thoughts and issues I plan on talking about in my column this year and look forward to hearing your ideas and comments.
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