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Start your day off on the right foot!

Good morning! Or is it? How important is it to start your day with good habits and the right frame of mind? Research shows it’s critical! How you start your day has far-reaching positive and negative ramifications that affect work, personal life, and your overall well-being. We’ve all started the day in a panic because we are running late or need to immediately go into crisis mode, only to see the morning hours fade and the rest of the day be unproductive. There are days we wrap up work and feel elated and pleased with the services we have provided and the impact we’ve made; then there are other days when burn out and allow negativity to set in. Believe it or not, the first few minutes of your waking hours set the tone and paves the way for how you experience everything throughout the rest of your day.

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No more shiny objects for you

If you’ve been in this business for very long, it’s likely at some point you’ve found yourself completely overwhelmed with the things you’re supposed to do. Are you on social media? Do you have this app? What about this CRM? Have you done this online course? What about listening to this marketing pitch? It’s hard to know who to pay attention to, where to invest your money, and how to most wisely use the only asset you really have — your time. Read the rest of this entry »

Matt Schumacher, Travel Troops

Travel consultants come from all walks of life, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that some had previous lives on the supplier side of the industry. We recently spoke with Matt Schumacher about his road to becoming an agency owner.

Travel Research Online (TRO): What was your profession prior to getting into the travel industry?

Matt Schumacher (MS): Before travel I was in retail, I was working for the likes of Best Buy and Walmart as a manager. Actually at one point, I worked for Randy Alleyne in the retail arena (who is now with Liberty Travel). When my job was outsourced, I applied for a job with Sandals, and that was my entry into the travel world. Read the rest of this entry »

Craig Satterfield: The Cruise Scholar

We recently sat down with Craig Satterfield and spoke with him about his 4 decades in the travel industry, and about his book which was recently published.

Craig Satterfield has been in the travel industry for nearly 40 years. His experience has included owning his own business, managing a franchise, and also as an employee. Currently Craig is an employee for two different cruise agencies, Sure Cruise and Cruise Travel Outlet. In the 1970’s, Craig started one of the first five cruise-only agencies. At that time other travel agents told him he wasn’t a legitimate travel agent if he wasn’t writing airline tickets. Many of those agencies went out of business years later when the airlines stopped paying commissions and the agencies didn’t adapt.

Although Craig is more than happy to help his clients with any type of travel, his true niche is cruises. When CLIA (Cruise Line International Association) started their cruise accreditation program, Craig worked his way through the program levels eventually, becoming an Elite Cruise Counselor Scholar. (Note that currently CLIA is not offering the Scholar level at this time) Read the rest of this entry »

As our success depends upon the client-travel advisor relationship, I have been paying particular attention to the initial “pitch” when potential new clients call.  Sometimes they are eager to launch into the specifics of the trip or start their line of questions to get advice.  Of course the initial call must go extremely well to obtain their business and make a prospect an actual client.  So it’s of relevance to know how that actually happens, and while this is not a scientific or foolproof method – I think most would agree that success is found in the connection we make with the client or prospect.  The critical element in success to our business is our ability to connect with our clients! Read the rest of this entry »

Sell yourself first–always!

As the career profile and job description of the travel “agent” has evolved into being a travel “advisor”, travel professionals have evolved into much more than order takers.  In other words, we’re not just here to process payments and book travel, we are here to guide and educate our clients.  Therefore, the heart of our book of business is undeniably built on the trust, respect, and the rapport we develop with our clients.  How this relationship is established is critical to maintaining longevity as your clients return to you—their travel guru.

According to Harry Beckwith, author of You, Inc., the FIRST thing to sell is yourself!  This is extremely critical and lays the foundation for all aspects of your business.  Perhaps this sounds easier said than done, especially when you receive a call and the prospect dives right into the specifics of their wants, needs, and ideas for their upcoming vacation. Read the rest of this entry »

They see it on television and they read about it on the internet. It’s a topic of discussion during dinner. You know what I am talking about: The “T” word… Terrorism!

No doubt about it, we live in a world where recent, violent, and tragic events have changed us all for ever.

As a travel expert and industry veteran, I have seen this type of client fear and concern before. Do you all remember Pan Am 101? Travel in general came to a screeching halt. Hijacking of airlines was all but of unheard of back then.

Keep in mind that the American people are perhaps the most resilient people in the world and as history has proven: we see what happens, we get shaken up, but them we move on.

Fast forward to today… Read the rest of this entry »

Carmen Schaffer, Viva La Vida Travel

What do you do when your low-paying, nonprofit job lays you off due to budget cuts? If you are Carmen Schaffer, Viva La Vida Travel, you assess your passions and end up in the travel industry. We recently caught up with Carmen and talked to her about her transition into the travel industry and what the past five years have been like for her.

Travel Research Online (TRO): What was the impetus for your entrance into the travel industry?

Carmen Shaffer (CS): I had been doing social work since I graduated college, primarily working for nonprofit organizations, but about 5 years ago I was the victim of budget cuts. I have always been intrigued by travel and other cultures. I went to France when I was 15 years old, and I also studied abroad in Costa Rica. Read the rest of this entry »

What Kobe Bryant taught me about travel

Did you watch the basketball game on April 13th to close out the Kobe Bryant era? I didn’t but I certainly heard about it, and later watched a few highlights. Occasionally in my life as travel agent, I feel as if some people will watch my whole game, and some will just watch the highlights. But if I think of myself as Kobe, I force myself to come out 100% for every game and capture the attention of my audience.

Let’s break this whole travel agent life into bite size pieces, because to do otherwise is like playing the whole basketball season at once instead of game by game or each win or loss. Read the rest of this entry »

Recently we caught up with Eddie Woodham, NACTA South Florida Chapter Director and Southeast US Regional Director, and spoke to him about his experience in the travel industry.

Travel Research Online (TRO): How did you enter the travel industry?

Eddie Woodham (EW): I was working in healthcare finance prior to joining the travel industry. I was an avid traveler, and in 1995 when certain events happened in the healthcare finance field, I decided to make a move. I entered the industry when airlines first cut commissions and agencies implemented service fees on airfare. For approximately 10 years I worked with a couple of different brick and mortar agencies in New Orleans. Read the rest of this entry »

Are you abusing your travel agent?

Before 9/11, we looked to travel agents for knowledge and expertise, and booked our travel experience with a lot more confidence than we do today. Now, everyone is a travel agent because everyone knows how to book travel on OTAs. But, is that the qualification of a travel agent? Does your qualification mean the ability to put together an itinerary online? I submit that many travel consumers have very little insight into the day-in-the-life of a travel agent; and if they did, our value would become more apparent. Read the rest of this entry »

Penney Rudicil and the Extreme Agency Make-Over

Penney Rudicil has gone from being an independent contractor to owning her own agency, The Travel Planner, to educating and training travel agents through Travel Agent Success. We recently talked to Penney about her time in the travel industry and her progression to training and educating other travel agents.

Travel Research Online (TRO): When and how did you enter the travel industry?

Penney Rudicil (PR): I started as a part time independent contractor with a host agency back in 1987. I did that while working a full time job for some time. Around 1995 I started my own agency, The Travel Planner, and eventually hosted independent contractors myself. Read the rest of this entry »

At first glance, leaders and sales people may seem polar opposites – but think again!  A strong sales person must possess the same qualities that make a strong leader as your success hinges on one critical factor: the trust of your people.  In essence, you’re really saying “Follow Me” to your clients as they entrust their time, money, and travel dreams to you.  Winning long term clients and sustaining happy clients also requires the self-assurance and magnetism of a true leader.  To deliver results in a challenging business, authority, and unflinching confidence are the keys to success. Read the rest of this entry »

Show Me the Waterslides!

Family travel has to be one of the fastest growing niches in the travel industry. In fact, I’m banking on it – as that is the area I chose to specialize in. I’m a mom of two young kids, so I know what it’s like to pore over lists of hotels guessing which resort my kids will have more fun at. Unfortunately, many all-inclusive resorts that we North Americans flock to come winter don’t make it a very easy selection process. Resorts do list many of their amenities i.e. Wi-Fi, parking, gym facilities, etc., yet there are certain details that are lacking when it comes to the ‘wants’ of family travellers. Read the rest of this entry »

It seems like most agents enter the travel industry as a second (or third) career these days. Tim Larison is no exception, transitioning to travel from a career as a software engineer to travel professional. We recently spoke with Tim about his transition and time in travel.

Travel Research Online (TRO): How long have you owned your agency?

Tim Larison (TL): I started in travel as an independent contractor back in 2002, and then started my own agency around 2007. We are still associated with a host, Nexion, for some of our bookings, but we also have our own CLIA number for booking direct with certain suppliers. Read the rest of this entry »

Toni Lanotte-Day, Toni Tours Inc.

We recently reached out to Toni Lanotte-Day, owner of Toni Tours Inc., and spoke with her about her thirty-plus years in the travel industry, from part-time outside agent in the 1980’s to agency owner and active member of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) and the National Association of Career Travel Agents (NACTA). Read the rest of this entry »

The quagmire of being available 24/7/365 is a debate that pops up on a regular basis in agent-only discussion forums. Storefront agencies have very defined office hours, and clients don’t seem to expect them to be open after hours. They may be expected to offer after hours emergency service for clients that are traveling, but otherwise clients do not expect to be able to walk in the door after hours and obtain basic service like looking and booking. However, home-based agencies don’t seem to have the same boundaries. When the topic comes up for discussion in forums the debates quickly get heated. There are agents that work 24/7 and have no qualms with doing so. If a client calls at 2 o’clock in the morning, they’ll answer the phone, even if the client is calling to confirm their dining time on the cruise departing in ten months. Other agents are adamant that they only work set hours and never respond to clients after hours, ever. Who is right? No one and everyone. Read the rest of this entry »

Stop! Listen to what you don’t want to hear

We all have challenges hearing!  Let’s face it, we often hear the actual sounds and verbiage, but fall a bit short on the analysis and next step. It’s critical to the sales process and the success of any business to not just hear, but to actively listen. You must process and act on that information! One hurdle to get over for any good listener is that people may be telling you what you DON’T want to hear, thus changing the course of your interaction and your ultimate sales outcome. Do not dismiss this information or assume anything; it’s all critical to forming a strong relationship and securing a sale. Read the rest of this entry »

Tom Varghese, Travel Tom

Many travel professionals come from a variety of walks of life, and have made travel their second career. This holds true for Tom Varghese as well. Before he opened his agency, Travel Tom, he was a Vice President for a major Wall Street corporation. We recently sat down with Tom and talked about his transition from Corporate America to travel agency owner, as well as his unique perspective on the travel industry. Read the rest of this entry »

Hema Khan, Kirkwood Travel

Hema Khan is both the owner of Kirkwood Travel in Voorhees, New Jersey, and the CCRA/OSSN Northeast Regional Director & Southern NJ Chapter Director. Susan Schaefer recently caught up with Hema to talk about her experience in the travel industry and with CCRA – Travel Commerce Network, previously known as OSSN. Read the rest of this entry »

Working under the influence

Recently I had knee surgery. As a big proponent of having emergency plans and back-ups in place, I arranged to have someone back me up for the four days I was in the hospital. What I didn’t plan for, was having someone continue to back me up for the weeks following surgery. I honestly didn’t think it was necessary. After all, I was going to be house-bound with nothing better to do. I re-arranged the bedroom and set up a mini-office on my nightstand. All of my electronics were within arms’ reach or a short hobble across the room. So why would I need to have a back-up in place once I got home? One word—narcotics. Read the rest of this entry »