Three 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 fourth year, the answer is obvious. As the Editor for TRO, this is my favorite column. The great ideas that these folks put forth and the troubles they see truly motivate me to make my business better. While the issues the diarists face are certainly not identical to everyone else’s; but at the same time, they are not too far removed.
Today, I am thrilled to introduce the 2012 group of travel professionals who will be your Travel Agent Diarists.
Susan Schaefer, Tracy Kidd, Julie Summers, Trish Gastineau, and Mary Jo Babiarz are ready to lay it on the line for the benefit of everyone beginning January 10th. One thing I want to stress—it is not easy to do this. Please take the time to read the weekly columns and follow along as they plod through the year, but please take the time to leave a comment. Everyone likes to hear about a job well done or to receive a little tip on how to better run their business. Ultimately, they are doing this for you—so please make sure you give them the feedback!
Susan Schaefer, Ships N Trips Travel. Susan got into the industry because of a crappy travel agent. After a bad experience, she decided she could do better—and she did. She enrolled in the local Community College and took courses. She attended seminars, and quietly immersed herself in the industry while working full time in California. Her husband’s job transferred their family to Tennessee and Susan saw the opportunity to cast away the ties that bound her to the corporate world and started Ships N Trips Travel. Today, she still has the home based agency, but has expanded to “anything Kiwi” with Your Kiwi Specialist, student travel with Kick Butt Vacations, and charity trips with Kick Butt Events.
Tracy Kidd, The Traveling Kidd. Tracy is a newbie! Hailing from Central New Jersey, she has just about a year’s worth of experience in the travel industry. And like Susan, Tracy felt that she could do it better. She specializes in planning travel for couples, friend getaways, and groups. Realizing the importance of our trade associations, Tracy is a member of NACTA. Drawing from her corporate background, her stated goal is to provide executive level service to all of her clients ensuring satisfied clients and repeat business.
Julie Summers. Julie comes to us from one of the “big guys” who shall remain nameless. It is a multi-brand travel distributor with offices throughout the country, but she works from my home near Boise, Idaho. Julie has been in the industry since 2007 and with her current agency since 2009. She specializes in cruises and can’t imagine doing anything else. She prides herself on her repeat business from many clients and enjoys connecting with them and their families to help plan their very personal vacations. While her agency is a large company, having been awarded one of the 50 Most Engaged Workplaces of 2011 and named Norwegian Cruise Line’s Elite Partner of the Year, it feels much smaller according to Julie–“it’s a big company, but it feels like one big happy family!”
Trish Gastineau, Simply Europe Travel. Trish was a Navy brat that always wanted to live in Europe, yet her father kept pulling tours of duty in the Pacific or Asia. So what’s a girl to do? After traveling the world as a military kid, she realized she knew it all and jumped into the travel business specializing in the area she loved—Europe. When Trish came into the industry in 1993 knowing it all—she got her wake up call. Over the past 20 years, she has been a brick and mortar agent, an independent contractor, and outside agent, and finally she has her own agency and is acting as a host for this niche market. Along the way, she never let her knowledge get rusty—Trish has earned her MCC and her CTC to benefit her clients.
Mary Jo Babiarz, Cary Travel Express. Mary Jo has been in the travel business since 2005. While an outstanding generalist, her passion shows through in her love for the sun. She is particularly knowledgeable about the Riviera Maya and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, but has extended knowledge in the Caribbean as well. A sponge for information, Mary Jo attends as many courses and destination certifications as possible. She has parlayed this additional training into a very strong working relationship with her preferred suppliers. An avid photographer, Mary Jo’s photos are typically what “sells” the trip for her clients as she can clearly demonstrate that she has been there and done that.
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.