Yes – you read the headline correctly. While some may think that using “Brick & Mortar” and “Success” in the same breath is an oxymoron, I assure you, that is not the case! My name is Linda Furlan, and I am a Cruise Consultant for The Cruise Shop – a specialized division of Viking Travel Service in Naperville, IL. I’m sure I speak for many other storefront based agencies everywhere that we are still, indeed, a very vital part of our communities. As a matter-of-fact, 2011 marks our 40th anniversary. In spite of suffering the “slings and arrows” of numerous commission cuts, 9/11, a sluggish economy, and (dare I say?) the Internet, we remain alive, well, and thriving.
I started my career in 1979 – fresh out of college and Travel School as a Corporate Agent. Talk about Baptism by Fire! Automation was in its infancy, so we used the tools of the trade such as tariffs, OAG’s, OHRG’s, and that ancient technological device – the telephone!
I also recall something every client HAD to have in their possession in order to travel—a ticket. And for those who were not aware, tickets were hand-written back then.
With travel becoming more accessible and popular, agents were an essential to the clients. While some might disagree, I am proof-positive that in today’s travel world, we are as essential as ever.
It didn’t take long before I realized the break-neck speed of corporate travel was not for me. I longed for a way to showcase and share my “wanderlust” with like-minded people, so the move to leisure travel was inevitable. But the tragedy of 9/11 prompted a lot of soul-searching for me – not only from a philosophical point of view, but from a career standpoint as well. The industry was experiencing a domino-effect–agency upon agency started going out of business. I’d realized that while it may not make sense to reinvent the wheel, it was the perfect time to reinvent me; and I made the decision to become a cruise specialist.
I’ve been working for The Cruise Shop for nearly 6 years, and while we’ve enjoyed great success from “repeat” business afforded by our expansive client base, we also continue working hard to cultivate new business as well. Our best and most consistent results, have been through customer referrals and group business; however, we have also seen rewards from cruise nights, bridal shows, and even social media tools like Facebook. Looking into the future, I see the use of social media continuing to play a pivotal role in our growth. As a travel blogger and social media enthusiast, I’ll be sharing more details with you in future posts of my efforts (and hopefully successes) in that realm.
To the proverbial “slings and arrows” we continually face in this industry, I say “bring it on!” Ultimately, the Internet is no substitute for the intangibles of travel such as thorough, thoughtful, personalized service that we provide our clients. Good Luck getting that from some online mega-agency! The personalized service is precisely what continues to keep us afloat at The Cruise Shop.
Many times, I’ve had a new client call or stop by, and express their relief that there still were travel agents around. To quote Mark Twain’s, famous quip “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” I feel it is our duty to set the record straight. We are still relevant. We are still essential. Please stay tuned, as I look forward to sharing more details of what has and hasn’t worked for us; I certainly welcome your feedback, as well! Here’s hoping a 2011 will be a banner year – for all of us!
Linda Furlan is a career Travel Consultant with over 30 years experience as a front-line,
brick-and-mortar agent. She is a MCC Cruise Specialist employed by Ensemble-affiliated Viking Travel Service/The Cruise Shop (www.cruise-shop.com) in Naperville, IL – celebrating their 40th Year in business in 2011. From Corporate to Groups to Leisure to middle-management, she’s seen and done it all – but becoming a niche specialist in her favorite genre – Cruising – has been the most fulfilling. Linda also recently combined her passions for travel, writing, and photography by starting her own Travel Blog . She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (630) 357-7447.