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’s 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.
Meredith has more recently been driven by a mission to help the travel agent finally be seen. Meredith, along with her business partners, founded the Gifted Travel Network (GTN) host agency in 2013 in an effort to help travel entrepreneurs become more visible.
TRO: Tell us about your role at Gifted Travel Network.
MH: We originally came up with concept of GTN after many, many conversations and feedback from travel agents who said that they can’t find hosts that support them as entrepreneurs. It dawned on us that maybe we need to create that. My role at GTN is to hold that vision of creating a really great home for people who have a passion for travel and want to build their own business around it. Not our business — theirs. I’m also highly involved in creating and delivering the Travel MBA program, a training program for people who are new or feel like they missed a lot of important pieces in their own training program. And I’m involved in raising awareness of the value of a travel professional to the travelling public and marketing to the consumer.
TRO: What aspect of travel keeps you motivated as a travel professional?
MH: The fact that suppliers just keep bettering their products and creating better and better experiences for all of us. And exploration. I’m an explorer at heart and I love exploring new places.
TRO: Tell us a little bit about the Gifted Travel Network.
MH: GTN is a host agency, but not a traditional host agency; we’re different because we support the entrepreneur. We have two objectives at GTN: 1) provide a place for people with a passion for selling travel to build their own businesses, and 2) execute consumer awareness campaigns that elevate the value of travel professionals in the eyes of consumers.
TRO: What are Gifted Travel Network’s teams and how does one become a part of a team?
MH: Our teams are based upon your expected sales, which are reflective of your experience. The Elite Team is generally appropriate for established travel professionals with commissionable travel sales of $300,000 or more per year. The Varsity Team includes a wide range of travel professionals encompassing the spectrum of market specialties and business models; they’re our core bench strength. And our final team will be made up of members of our Travel MBA program. Our commission levels range from 70% to 100%. We don’t steer people in any one direction. It’s their choice as a business owner for what makes most financial sense to them. Agents can learn more about our teams here.
TRO: What types of unique services or programs does Gifted Travel Network offer?
MH: We’re really excited about our Travel MBA program, the training program I previously mentioned. We also offer GIFTE membership for GTN members for free. That provides the community and support for their entrepreneurial needs. Membership provides them with marketing advice, strategy, business building, and resources they can tap into that we believe nobody else is offering.
TRO: What have you found to be the most useful aspect of Gifted Travel Network for travel agents?
MH: Possibly our supportive approach; when our agents have questions, we get back to them really, really quickly. If there’s a solution an agent needs for his/her business, we try to provide that solution. We don’t like to say “no” to something that makes business sense, even if it requires some out-of-the box thinking and implementing something new. We are very agile that way. We’re here to help them build and thrive in their businesses, as opposed to being the pass through for their bookings.
TRO: What has been the most rewarding part of launching Gifted Travel Network?
MH: Getting back into being an active participant in the travel business. We’re back in the business of selling travel and that is fun and really exciting for me.
TRO: Is there anything exciting in the works for Gifted Travel Network?
MH: We’re launching the Travel MBA program officially on March 17th, and we’re so excited to get this program started! It includes 13 online learning modules that walk participants through how to establish a business where they can really make money selling travel. They’ll get access to experienced mentors who have been in the business for a while, monthly Q&A calls, and hosting through GTN. To learn more, check out http://giftedtravelnetwork.com/TravelMBA.html.