TRO is going to follow the progress of a few travel agents and their business over the course of 2009 to allow our readers the opportunity of comparing notes and experiences with other agents. These brave souls have promised to write about both their successes and failures this year. Be sure to leave them some comments if you would like to share some of your own experiences.
How many people can actually say they feel fulfilled with their “work?” So many in life go through the motions and never enjoy what they do for a living. I am so fortunate to say that I love my work and find what I do fulfilling – from the joys to the frustrations. My name is Patricia Saizan and I am the owner of Saizan’s Travel, LLC, a home based travel agency located just outside of Orlando, Florida.
My journey began with my ongoing love for travel. As a child my parents took my brother and I on wonderful vacations each year to either the Caribbean or Europe. The travel bug bit me early. When I was deciding on my life career it really never occurred to me to go to travel school. My parents were pretty insistent that I go to college and so I did. I studied nursing and became a Registered Nurse specializing in Labor and Delivery. As often as financially possible I would travel. After I married my husband and I would travel as much as we could, and once our son came along we would take him with us.
In January 2002 my husband and I went on a 3 night cruise without my son (thanks to my parents who baby sat him for the weekend). We were seated at dinner with a group of teachers turned travel agents. Remember, this was shortly after 9/11. These teachers were talking excitedly about their new found profession and their success. It then hit me like a ton of bricks. I want to be a travel agent. Upon returning from the cruise I immediately enrolled in an online travel course at Galiano Career Academy. I finished the course and became an Independent Contractor with Travel Planners International, run by the same family who owns Galiano Career Academy. The date was May 22, 2002. I took the plunge into this world of travel and have never looked back.
Ongoing learning is very important to me, as well as achieving certifications. I took the TAP test in June 2002 and earned by ACC in November 2002. In November 2003 I earned my CTA and in May 2007 my CTC. To this day I take any certification I can pertaining to my niche of Caribbean, Hawaii and Mexico travel including destination weddings, cruises, all inclusive vacations and resort packages to these areas. This industry is in constant change and it is very important to always be up to date.
When I first started my business in May 2002 I did not have any friends or family that were looking to travel. Knowing that I needed to do something to market my new business I turned to the internet. I signed up with Online Agency and “got a website.” As we all know, visitors do not magically appear once you have a website, so I started to research how to get visitors to my website. This led me to Search Engine Optimization. I learned all I could and started to optimize key landing pages on my website for specific key word searches. It worked! I started to get clients and build my business. Soon I branched out into pay per clicks, print advertising in a couple of destination wedding magazines, and the Yellow Book online, each costing me a small fortune. None of these worked. Now I concentrate solely on website optimization and getting my websites listed in Yahoo, Google, MSN and more for free. To date I have 6 websites and have learned how to create my own website and get it listed on the search engines. Website development has become an enjoyable hobby for me.
The past few years my business has grow despite my association with Joystar, Inc. Today I am happily back with Travel Planners International as my host and vow to never stray again. I have found a shift in my business from cruises to all inclusive resort vacations. Where once my business was 90% cruises, it is now 70% all inclusive vacations, 10% destination weddings, and 20% cruises.
This new year is bound to bring many challenges due to the economic downturn we are all experiencing. While I receive many leads on a daily basis, bookings are down. I am finding more and more people get to the point of giving me their credit card only to reconsider the very idea of traveling in this economy. In other words I have heard a lot of clients say “you know, I’d like to travel, but something tells me I better save my money instead. Let me see how the first few months here pan out and I’ll give you a call.”
Due to the “Economy of 2009” my marketing plan focuses on destination weddings and honeymoons due to the fact that people still get married and take a honeymoon. I anticipate bookings in the area of family vacations and couples vacations to be down this year.
Since I started my business shortly after 9/11 the economy does not scare me. This is an enjoyable industry and I am happy to be a part of it.