Anita Pagliasso took a leap of faith in 1992. Following her passion for travel, she switched gears from owning a successful and thriving electronic manufacturing rep business in the heart of Silicon Valley, CA., to opening her home-based travel business, Ticket To Travel. In 1993, Anita accepted Gary Fee’s challenge to become the San Jose/Bay Area Chapter director, which during parts of her 20 plus year reign became the OSSN flagship chapter.
Anita serves as the Conference Director for the Travel Agent Forums, where she is responsible for educational content, securing relevant authors, keynote speakers, travel industry top executives, and co-coordinating panels and panelists, all while working closely with the staff at Travel Show Marketing Group.
Anita is also a charter Executive Board member and serves as the President of PATH (Professional Association of Travel Hosts). PATH is an all-encompassing, non-partisan Professional Association of Travel Host Agencies. Membership includes the major top host agencies in the travel industry, who have completing a thorough background check, which includes a stringent confirmation of standards, contracts, seller of travel laws, and confirming they are a legitimate host agency and not a MLM type. PATH is safe haven for agents to look for legitimate, vetted host agencies.
Helping to foster home-based agent’s successes, elevate the image of the home-based travel agent, and the travel industry on the whole are, and will always be, Anita’s greatest passions.
Travel Research Online (TRO): What prompted that shift for you from electronic manufacturing to the travel industry? Was it a particular event or did you just need a change of pace?
Anita Pagliasso (AP): Although I hadn’t traveled much, I knew that I had a serious wanderlust. The only reason that I subscribed to the Sunday paper was so that I could read the travel section. I remember tearing out articles on destinations, making files and not really understanding why. I dreamed about traveling the world, and then finally went on my first cruise. Nothing made me happier than waking up each day in a new port of call. That was it! Not soon after, I sold my manufacturing rep business to my partner and I happily jumped into the travel industry with both feet. I’ve never looked back.
TRO: Starting a new business from scratch in an unfamiliar industry is no easy feat. Can you give us a glimpse of those first few years building up Ticket to Travel (T2T)?
AP: I became a sponge, anxious to learn everything there was to know. I started by subscribing to every relevant publication, joining organizations, and networking with other successful travel agents. I eventually learned to limit my list of preferred supplier partners, with an understanding of knowing that they would be the key to give me the edge, the knowledge, and services needed to take care of my clients.
What I brought with me from my rep business to my travel business were people skills. Regardless of what you’re selling, printed circuit boards or travel, I knew my success would be based on how well I cared for and treated my clients. I had to stand out from others, so I made myself convenient by being available evenings and weekends. I also made the decision to focus on leisure travel, so every vacation package came with a creative gift or basket. I sent VIP letters to hotels in advance of my client’s arrivals. I loved hearing clients say “I never expected that!” I quickly learned the value of word of mouth referrals, becoming part of the community, joining networking groups, and treating each client the way that I would want to be treated and valued. I was committed to building a successful travel business and knew that hard work, creativity, and reputation all played a vital part.
TRO: Tell us about your day-to-day role at T2T.
AP: There is never a day that is quite the same, which is why I love our industry. However, on a daily basis, I work closely with my management team to discuss matters of the day, as well as stay in touch with our agents and preferred suppliers. We work consistently in finding best practice programs for our agents to implement steps to find their own success. I strive to offer the same caring service that I gave to my travel clients and I give them every means available to reach me or management 24/7 should they need anything.
TRO: What is the philosophy behind T2T’s relationship with its agents?
AP: We want to help agents transform their “Passion for Travel” into PROFIT! Our programs are customized to each agent’s unique needs and desires. We offer coaching and mentoring for those who are brand new to selling travel, support and tools for those experienced agents seeking a change, and back office support and technology for storefront agencies looking to take their business home.
TRO: What are some of the benefits of T2T for agents looking for a host agency?
AP: We offer marketing programs, e-Marketing, lead generation programs, booking engines, access to hundreds of preferred travel suppliers, and a proprietary database management program specifically designed for home-based independent travel agents.
- Top commissions paid on preferred suppliers
- Bonus year-end commission opportunities
- Included: Agent Base Connect™ (complete CRM – customer relationship manager, back office, invoice & accounting system)
- Dashboard reminders for client birthdays, payments due, client departing and returning alerts, passport renewals – never miss another payment or special date!
- Commissions paid by direct deposit
- Complimentary membership to Travel Leaders Network
- Lead generation program (no cost)
- Access to CruisingPro booking engine for special group rates and amenities
- “Travel 42” discount (Star Service-Weissmann) subscription of non-biased reviews for 1000’s of hotels and cruise lines
- Custom personalized travel guides plus drag and drop itinerary builder
- Hotel program with client amenities
- Worldwide destination specialists to offer agent-to-agent knowledge and guidance
- Free email marketing program
- Regional meetings & training – no charge to T2T agents
- FAM trips and Seminar at Sea opportunities
- IATA/CLIA cards if qualified
- Daily Travel Research Online daily newsletter, industry updates, tips, and destination information
- Voyager websites options available at special discounted rates for T2T agents
- On-demand recorded training and webinars
- Monthly Saturday Morning Chat with Anita Pagliasso
- On demand recorded training and webinars
- One-on-One Mentoring Program
- New Agent Orientation Session
- 24/7 Phone and Email Support
TRO: You are one of the Travel Institute’s Professional Educators in their Professional Educators’ Program (PEP). Can you tell us about the program and your role as an educator?
AP: I am very honored to be among a select group of top trainers, educators, and speakers who are able to share our expertise with travel agents through articles and other means of communication. The Travel Institute has also selected my books and Power Pack to be featured as products that will educate both new and seasoned agents in finding their own success. How I Made a Small Fortune as a Home-Based Agent, From Home-Based to POWERHOUSE, and the CD Anita’s Tool Box for Home-Based Travel Agents are all located in The Travel Institute’s Marketplace.
TRO: One of your agents commented in their testimonial, “We work for them and they work for us. That’s just how it is; teamwork at its finest. If your host agency is A Ticket to Travel, you’re part of a family – a family that works together towards a common goal.” Do you think that’s an apt description of Ticket To Travel?
AP: Absolutely! Any relationship has to be a “win-win” for all involved. We foster agent-to-agent networking and the sharing of experiences and expertise. Our agents never feel that they are alone as there is someone always available to give firsthand personal or client recommendations. The constant exchange of information and support is communicated through a company intranet and our private Facebook page.
TRO: What will 2017 hold for Ticket To Travel?
AP: We have chartered through a strategic growth pattern over the years that has always encompassed the needs of our new and existing agents, as well as embracing the current trends in the industry. In 2017, we look forward to launching many new programs, including a state of the art proprietary CRM, technology tools, preferred supplier training, marketing initiatives, and exciting incentive programs for our agents.
TRO: What are some words of advice you can offer to new agents just getting their feet wet in the industry?
AP: Don’t try go it alone. Selling travel can be a fun and exciting business to get into, but it is still a business. Get the support and training necessary by aligning with a reputable host agency that can mentor you through the processes. In most cases, an agent can be under the legal umbrella of a host agency and will be exempt from certain seller of laws in various states that apply to our industry.
There are an abundance of travel industry courses available to travel agents entering our industry; however, I think it is just as important to take business courses in sales and marketing. Find your niche, become a destination specialist, but in the end, we have to be just as comfortable in both “selling the dream” and then “closing the deal”.
Anita Pagliasso is the author of “How I Made A Small Fortune as a Home-Based Travel Agent” “From Home-Based to POWERHOUSE” and “Anita’s Toolbox for Home-Based Agents CD” (www.redticketproductions.com), President, Host Agency Ticket To Travel (www.travelagentathome.com), Travel Agent Forum Conference Director, and PATH President & Executive Board Member