Erica Scannelli with Worldwide Traveler
In my 6th grade yearbook, where other kids speculated on their futures as Olympic athletes, fire fighters, and millionaires, my career ambition was to be a Travel Agent. I didn’t re-discover this until recently and, looking back, it seems I was destined for this profession! I loved watching and reading about other people and cultures as a child; as a teen, I took my first international trip to Paris and I was hooked! After an International Studies program in college, I moved back home to New Jersey and started applying for jobs. Back then, it was the days of newspapers and mailing resumes, so it was a very anxious time while I waited to learn my fate. I felt like the luckiest person alive when I landed my dream job at Liberty Travel.
10 years ago, I began as a retail Travel Consultant and started navigating our industry’s complexities; I earned my knowledge from any source I could find – my colleagues and managers, seminars, dinners, tradeshows, etc. If an invite was extended, I was there! I was voracious in my acquisition of knowledge – no tidbit irrelevant, never enough detail. The day-to-day changes in the travel business only made it more exciting because I would never reach the bottom of the information well.
In 2008, our company was acquired by Flight Centre, a multi-national travel organization that today operates in 11 countries with over 15,000 employees. Shortly thereafter, I was recruited to join a brand new department and Worldwide Traveler, a division of GOGO Worldwide Vacations, launched in fall 2008. Worldwide Traveler is a wholesale team of specialists in long-haul travel; we sell only to travel agents and are experts in customized FIT trips to Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific, Indian Ocean, Asia, Europe, and more. As Team Leader, it is my job to coach and develop my consultants, provide vision and focus, and manage our office’s finances. In addition, I still spend most of my day working as a consultant – planning trips and making dreams come true! You’ll also meet me at trade shows and GOGO’s Worldwide Showcases, held in about 10 different cities annually. The Showcases are a fantastic educational day that we host for retail travel agents where they can learn about new products, speak to representatives from hotels and tour operators, and meet your local GOGO and Worldwide Traveler teams.
One of the best benefits of working at Flight Centre USA is the depth of our organization. We have product teams on 5 continents working round the clock to keep our catalogue of hotels and touring current. We have reservations teams in 3 countries working to confirm hotel rooms and check on reservation details. We work closely with a pool of preferred suppliers and tour operators to build the perfect vacation for our customers. At Worldwide Traveler, you will always work with an expert, not an agent – our consultants will have lived in, travelled to, or hailed from one of the countries we sell; there is no destination in the Worldwide Traveler portfolio that at least one of our consultants hasn’t visited.
The most important piece of advice I could give to a travel agent would be to qualify your customers thoroughly. When you’re working with a wholesaler, it’s easy to imagine that person is going into the situation half blind – we know the product, but not your client – and the only way to create the perfect trip is by matching the customer to the right itinerary. Worldwide Traveler’s expertise is in experiential travel, which is the reason all our trips are customized. While we can give advice based on our knowledge, it is much more effective to make targeted recommendations based on your customer’s needs and expectations. For example, with an inquiry for Australia, if we know that your customer has previously stayed at three star hotels, gets excited about skydiving and likes independent travel, I would make a completely different proposal than for your customer who always books five star resorts, loves food and wine, and prefers private touring.
Working exclusively with exotic travel destinations, often our travel agent customers are intimidated by the product. It takes only a little time surfing the web and the traveler can suddenly seem more knowledgeable about a destination than the agent! Typically, agents that carefully qualify their clients close sales with 3 to 4 fewer revisions than those who do not, but I work frequently with an agent starting at Square One – they need information about when to go, where to go, and what to do once they get there. When you are uncertain on which qualifying questions to ask, don’t be afraid to reach out to Worldwide Traveler so we can help you to get the right start. My goal every time is to eliminate fears about selling the unknown by making it familiar. When you ask the right questions, I can make the best recommendations, and together we can close the sale! Plus, once you’ve gone through just one in-depth itinerary to Australia, the next one is easy. If I can help lay a solid foundation of knowledge, I know I’ve done my job. The side effect of this process also works out to be the best possible vacation for our end customer, the traveler.
The purpose of our company is to open up the world to those who want to see it and our vision is to be the world’s most exciting travel company, delivering an amazing experience to our people, customers, and partners. In the grand scheme of things, I’m a small link in the chain. But every time our customers experience something for the first time, see a new destination, or order a food they’ve never eaten, it’s not a small thing to them. The fact that I played a part in that is why I love my job!