Two years ago, Travel Research Online and five travel professionals took a risk. We came up with the idea of the Travel Agent Diaries as a place for travel professionals to share their month to month trials and tribulations. Would there be agents willing to expose their successes and their failures? Would it be of benefit to the rest of the agency community? Well, as we prepare for our third year, we can offer a resounding YES! As I edit each of these columns, I learn a little more. Many times the light in my head will go off and I realize that I am having the same problem; or better yet, a solution to a problem has been presented. While the issues the diarists face are certainly not identical to everyone else’s issues, if you dig a little deeper, you will see that they are not too far removed. I am thrilled to introduce the 2011 group of travel professionals who will be your Travel Agent Diarists.
Amy Hobbins, Amy Sinclair, Chanté Owens, Linda Furlan, Patti Maxwell, and our token guy Vince Yeck are ready to lay it on the line for the benefit of everyone beginning January 4th. The favor I ask of our readers is to interact and give these folks some feedback. Please use the comment feature and offer encouragement, solutions, compassion, ideas, and thoughts. Together we stand, divided we fall!
Amy Hobbins, Journeys Unlimited. Amy holds an MCC, CTA and is a 20 plus year industry veteran. She has managed both the corporate and leisure side of a full service retail agency, as well as teaching evenings at a travel school. In 1999, she started her own home-based leisure agency, Journeys Unlimited Travel, with an emphasis on destination weddings and the honeymoon market. Because the demand has grown, she quickly moved to an office location, and hired several commissioned employees. She has developed a large group business, and Journeys Unlimited Travel is known for the full “travel concierge” services that are available and offered to a varied clientele for all destinations.
Amy Sinclair, Ears of Experience. After working for several years as Director of Operations for a large cruise-only travel agency, Amy started her own business based on her true passion–Disney. Ears of Experience is a fee-free Disney-only travel company with an emphasis on personalized service. Knowing that kids are such an integral part of the travel experience, Amy has involved her own children as ‘Kid Experts’. They have their own By Kids/4 Kids page on the website and they send letters to the kids of our clients letting them know about special tips and tricks just for kids.
Chanté Owens, Chicks That Trip. Chanté is the co-owner of a travel agency called, Chicks That Trip. The desire to get into the travel business started in late 2006 when Chanté’s business partner, Dawnielle Ballí, were joking about having Samantha Brown’s gig on the Travel Channel. The fantasy was to travel around and film themselves in exotic locales, as they ate, drank and danced their way from city to city. Absent the budget from The Travel Channel, reality set in and two years later they took the plunge and left corporate America and put their efforts into learning the industry. Two years later (and countless webinars, business plan developments, and travel industry related research), Chicks That Trip was born. The “official” start was at the beginning of 2010, and they have seen some successes. Their ambitious goals for 2011 include developing their niche market, begin aggressively marketing group travel for culinary & wine experiences, and major sporting event packages. Looking forward to 2012, they plan to be hosting Women Empowerment Retreats. So there is a lot to look forward to from this dynamic duo.
Linda Furlan, The Cruise Shop. Linda has a long tenure in the industry, just over 30 years. A native Chicagoan, after travel school and college, she has worked in agencies in Arizona and Florida. In 1999 she decided to head back home to the Midwest and focus on her passion, cruising. Linda is a CLIA-Certified Master Cruise Consultant (MCC) – enroute to achieving my Elite (ECC) status – and am employed by The Cruise Shop – a division of Viking Travel Service in Naperville, IL. Viking Travel Service is a proud member of Ensemble Travel Group and is a traditional, full-service “brick & mortar” agency, celebrating its 40th year in business.
Patti Maxwell, Galavant Travel. Patti is a full-time home-based travel consultant who entered the travel business 4 years ago after a 28-year career as a medical transcriptionist. With the family raised and on their own, Patti was ready for a new adventure! After studying travel at a local community college, Galavant Travel opened in January 2007. Patti has developed a close relationship with a local agency owner who acts as her host and mentor. As she grew, Patti acquired her own TRUE booking number through OSSN and with a need for more clients, she applied for and was accepted by Avoya Travel/America’s Vacation Center–their live leads program was exactly what Patti needed. Looking back on her life, Patti knows she made the right move and says that “Travel is in my blood…and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be!”
Vince Yeck, Yecks Cruise & Travel. Vincent Yeck, CTA, DS is the owner of Yeck’s Cruise & Travel in Lake Worth, Florida. He is a “Destination Specialist” for the Caribbean and specializes in cruises, family travel and groups; including youth sports fundraising. He also is the OSSN Chapter Director for Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast. Vince’s love for travel can be traced to his military brat lifestyle which took him literally across the globe with his father—a well decorated helicopter pilot. After 15 years in the engineering field, and an unexpected closure of his company in 2002, Vince took a chance and made the jump into travel.
Once again, we have a varied field of diarists which cover a wide spectrum of the industry. Please join with me in welcoming them and encouraging them as they chart their progress throughout the year.