VacationSide Travel — Easy ride

Posted on by in Travel Agent Diaries

Greetings from Music City, USA – home of genuine southern hospitality, the Tennessee Titans and backdrop to ABC’s hit show “Nashville”. My name is Steven Talbott and I’m so excited to be part of Travel Research Online’s sixth year of the Travel Agent Diary series! I hope to use this opportunity not only to be re-introduced to the wonderful community of travel industry professionals but also to become part of the conversation and best practice sharing already going on. You may be asking why I titled this piece “Easy Ride” and if you happen to be a Madonna fanatic, you may be able to connect the dots; but for those who aren’t, I promise to reveal the reason I chose this title for my first post but you’ll have to come along with me on this journey to find out!

My partner and I launched Vacation Side Travel a short while ago after I was laid off from Dell Computer after a 10 year career in the tech industry. Most recently, as a Salesforce CRM Business Intelligence Developer but I also gained experience across roles such as sales consultant in the small & medium business segment, program management, quality assurance & legal compliance, SharePoint intranet development as well as sales training.

So, how in the world did I end up in travel and what is this about being “re-introduced” to the travel community?

Well, prior to working for Dell and shortly after graduating from the M.L.King School for Health Sciences & Engineering, I was hired by the world’s largest travel agency (at the time) who paid my way through their travel school. While working for this “mega-agency”, I worked in a call center environment, at first, as a front-line agent selling domestic airline tickets, hotel reservations and car rentals but I eventually  worked my way to the leisure group and some specialty departments, selling tours & cruises, complex international itineraries as well as covering  shifts on the Executive Escalations Desk, Airline Relations Desk; and before leaving the travel industry, shortly after the tragic events of 9/11, I ended up on the team responsible for migrating tens of thousands from  the Sabre to the Apollo GDS after the company acquired Galileo International.

As you can see, I was part of the travel industry before, but it feels like ancient history, especially considering how much has changed and evolved. I hope my diverse background, most of which was in the technology sector, will aide in my journey to build a successful gay owned and operated travel business; but knowing the value of sharing best practices and collaborating with others who have already “been there, done that” made being a part of this series a no-brainer!  So, I hope to learn from each of you and equally important, hope my personal experiences, challenges and successes can help you on your own paths as well.

Thank you so much for reading – I look forward to your comments, suggestions, ideas and questions!

Did you start your travel business after being in a different industry?  If so, what skills, roles or experiences carried over that either helped you along the way or perhaps created some challenges you had to overcome? I invite you to share in the comments section below!

Steven Talbott is the founder of Vacation Side Travel, a gay owned-and-operated agency located near Nashville, Tennessee specializing in gay & lesbian (LGBT) tours, cruises, vacations and travel. Through their division Gay Travel Experts, clients are offered an expert travel concierge, unbiased personal assistants who help research and plan travel. 

  3 thoughts on “VacationSide Travel — Easy ride

  1. 1Geoff Millar says:

    Welcome. I came from another industry into travel. I was vice-president of sales for a large software and data company. The biggest tools I brought with me and have added to my success is, sales knowledge and ability, understanding the importance of specializing and knowing the products you sell inside and out, I watched the data processing businesses go through this and a lot of data processing companies not surviving because they did not embrace specialization , and the third discipline is customer service. I also feel that these 3 disciplines are the cornerstones of a successful travel business.

  2. Hi Geoff,

    I couldn’t agree with you more – about all the skills & tools you mentioned, especially your point about specialization! I don’t know of the last time I picked up an industry publication that didn’t mention something about “specializing to survive” and it’s a good message… With the internet and ease of self service, finding the value-add, whether it be expertise, personal experience or offering creative products that really stand out, is key.

    I have to admit, at first I paid no attention to those articles offering advice about finding a niche because getting bills paid and surviving was the only thing on my mind, not that anything’s wrong with that of course – we have to survive, first & foremost but I did finally decide to uncover the types of clients I wanted to work with which lead to my specialization.

    Thanks for sharing and, nice to meet you as well!

    Regards,
    Steven Talbott
    Owner/Master Consultant
    Vacation Side Travel – (855) 822-8747
    steven@vacationside.com

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