Meredith Hill, ex-President of Hills of Africa Travel, founded the Global Institute for Travel Entrepreneurs (GIFTE) to empower struggling travel consultants by helping them to connect with their passion again, attract ideal clients, and build a business that makes positive difference in people’s lives.
In 2007, faced with a long-standing struggle of not having enough clients in her travel business, Hills of Africa Travel, Meredith and her business partner were on the verge of closing the company’s doors. Thanks to their determination and efforts the company doubled its income within the first year. During 3 of the most difficult economic years in travel history, Hills of Africa quadrupled its business and was doubly proud of hitting a milestone in 2010, when they surpassed $1.6 million in sales.
Meredith has a never-ending love for Africa, but her deepest passion lies in empowering travel business owners who want to make a difference. Meredith’s goal is to revolutionize the travel industry by helping people connect with their passion again, adopt a mindset for success, get desperately needed support and build successful travel businesses that change people’s lives. Meredith continues to use her gift to blaze new trails and guide her clients to their paths of success.
Travel Research Online: What was your first experience in travel?
Meredith Hill: I’ve been travelling all my life, so it’s hard to remember! I think my first travel experience was going to the cloisters on Sea Island, GA, with my family, when I was about five or six years old.
TRO: Was this your most memorable experience in travel? If not, what was?
MH: No, it was a great experience, but not the most memorable. I’ve had lots of amazing experiences – but my most memorable one was having my husband show me his home in Africa, in Zimbabwe. And every single time I’ve been on a safari.
TRO: What first motivated you to want to join the travel industry?
MH: I was working on Wall Street and had everything I could possibly want – a great job, lots of money, stimulating people to work with. But I was missing one thing, a passion for what I did. That left me frustrated and unfulfilled. So when I went on maternity leave, I did a lot of soul searching and decided it was time to follow my passion – travel – and make a career out of it.
TRO: Turning around then-failing Hills of Africa Travel in 2007 is an outstanding achievement: what about that process do you think travel agents might be surprised to learn?
MH: I think they’d be surprised to learn that there wasn’t one thing that made it happen. It wasn’t about having a tremendous marketing plan or getting the right article in Conde Nast Traveler – it was about starting on the inside. If you can take control of your mindset, believe in your own success, and tap into your passion you can make it happen. As a business coach, people come to me thinking I have the answers for them – but the reality is I don’t have the answers they’re looking for. The answers lie within, and my job is to help you find those answers in yourself.
TRO: What do you see as the biggest threat to individual agents and/or the travel industry at large in the near-future?
MH: The biggest threat is not marketing at all, or marketing the wrong message. The travel agent is disappearing from the radar screen of the average consumer, who doesn’t understand the value of a travel agent. That’s not the consumer’s fault, it’s the travel agent’s fault.
TRO: How can this best be avoided or controlled?
MH: If we can all get out there and start marketing the real value of travel agents then we can change the course of the industry. We have to be willing to invest in marketing, and also be deliberate about marketing around the right message targeted at the right people.
TRO: What do you think is the greatest asset GIFTE can offer an agent who joins?
MH: Community and direction. Community really helps instill belief in oneself and an understanding and awareness that you’re not in it alone. The GIFTE community makes members aware that there are other people trying to do same thing.
TRO: What is something an agent might not know about GIFTE?
MH: I think they don’t know about the incredible richness that goes on at events and in forums in conversation and community. We have created connections with people that you can’t find anywhere else. We teach amazing content, and it’s all super helpful, but the connections people create with others in the GIFTE community is a great surprise – members feel connected and supported.
TRO: Is there anything exciting on the horizon for GIFTE you can tell us about?
MH: Yes – we’re doing a learning workshop on property at Sandals Whitehouse in Jamaica for our group coaching program, TESA. During the three-day event in October, agents will get to experience the Sandals property while focusing on building their businesses. If you’d like to learn more about our TESA program, visit www.travelbusinessu.com/academy