Kelly Bergin became Vice President of Business Development with OASIS in 2009 after spending over 25 years in the travel industry. Starting as a travel agent in 1980 Kelly soon opened her own successful travel agency in the mid 1980’s. After selling her agency she became a Business Development Manager working for companies such as Funjet Vacations and Princess Cruises from the late 1980’s to 1995. Having always loved the agent side of the business she opened her own agency again specializing in leisure travel in 1996. Starting from scratch she built the company into a profitable travel business for the next seven years.
After moving to Florida with her husband Michael, Kelly became involved in the real estate industry working for a technology company offering marketing and website solutions to real estate agents. The company was sold and Kelly’s love of travel led her back to the travel industry to establish OASIS as one of the fastest growing host agencies in the country today.
Kelly has a B.A. degree from Florida Atlantic University. She is on the board of PATH – Professional Association of Travel Hosts and serves on the leadership committee of South Florida NACTA. The travel and hospitality business is her passion. She’ll tell you that she has found her dream job at OASIS helping new sellers of travel launch their careers and helping established agents grow their business and become successful entrepreneurs.
Travel Research Online: What was your most fond travel memory you can recall?
Kelly Bergin: My Mother was a huge American history buff. Every summer growing up we would travel from Michigan to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello or Washington, D.C. or Ash Lawn-Highland, the home of President James Monroe. Any place that had a story of 18th or 19th century Americana was our destination. I loved staying at various hotels during our travels and that is probably when I caught the travel bug. Perhaps my Mother’s American history lessons grew a bit tiresome, but I never tired of seeing new places. I still love road trips!
TRO: How did you begin working in the travel industry?
KB: After graduating from college with a degree in geography and working various, unrelated jobs, my mother suggested I find out about becoming a travel agent. This sounded intriguing and a good fit for my area of study so I began to pursue the possibility. Because I did not live in a location that offered travel or tourism training I began soliciting local travel agencies. I learned quickly that in order to get a job in travel, you had to have worked in travel. It was a Catch 22. Finally after 6 months of hounding one agency I was given a try. This led to owning two travel agencies and working as a Business Development Manager for various suppliers.
TRO: Tell us about your role at OASIS.
KB: OASIS is a division of Palm Coast Travel which was started 26 years ago by Lee and Anne Smolinski. The agency originally began with corporate travel and morphed into a leisure travel company. In 2009 I met Lee and he told me about his vision to work with independent travel consultants around the country and about the tools he could offer to grow their business. When he mentioned that the agency was a member of Signature Travel Network I knew that this could become the best host agency program in the industry. It began with Lee’s idea and my experience as a travel business owner. We now have over 600 agents in our program that I manage.
TRO: What is the most unique aspect of OASIS as a travel service?
KB: Our marketing program incorporates all the high tech tools of Signature Travel Network. It is unlike anything else in the industry today. All aspects of marketing are interconnected and work seamlessly with each other. Emails link back to agents’ websites that link to pertinent supplier promotions. Client preferences are tracked so print mail and emails are relevant to client interests. Cruise itineraries are automatically tracked so agents know before their client that a rate has changed or a promo has been put in place. A new tool named Client Reach will help to keep clients engaged in their upcoming trip and help agents earn additional revenue. After a client books a land or cruise vacation Client Reach will remind them periodically to book pre and post hotels, shore excursions, etc. This will be automatic like the many other marketing tools we offer. This automation gives our agents more time to research and sell. It’s like having your own virtual assistant.
TRO: What is OASIS’ F.A.S.T. program?
KB: Our Future Agent Sales Training is designed for new sellers of travel. Individuals that want to become part of our dynamic industry and want a path to follow to get started. We incorporate supplier training programs, Signature University, and we have partnered with The Travel Institute to form OASIS U which includes general business courses and Destination/Lifestyle specialist certifications. After coursework is complete new agents choose a mentor from our list of experienced agents to help them through the next 3 months. They can train at their own pace and continue with The Travel Institute for a full year. We have had great response to this program.
TRO: Do you have any advice for travel agents that may be struggling to obtain clients?
KB: Market, Market, Market. And be consistent. No one can use your services and book with you if no one knows you exist. Get a good website and reach out at least once a week to everyone you know and tell them something interesting about yourself or a destination you have visited or a special promo. This could be by email, telephone, Facebook, etc. Join a networking group such as BNI.com and get involved. You have to spend some money to make some money. Love what you do!
TRO: Is there any new and exciting news or happenings on the horizon for Oasis?
KB: Our OASIS Sales Meeting and Get-Together is Nov. 13th at the Tropicana in Las Vegas and is in conjunction with the Signature Travel Network Sales Meeting and Tradeshow from Nov.13 – 16, 2013. OASIS preferred suppliers will attend to meet with our agents. We will be talking about our new Air Desk and new enhancements for agent websites. Signature always has great information and will roll out their new Client Reach tool. Margie Jordan and Sophie Bujold will be there to discuss social media tips and ideas. All four days will be very educational and exciting! Everyone walks away with a new sense of purpose and business ideas for the year to come.