When you think about the month of July, do you think of fireworks, barbecues, 4th of July celebrations and summer vacations? I certainly do. July is probably my favorite month of the year because of those very reasons; and because the 13th is my birthday! In ancient Rome, July was the fifth month of the year and originally called “Quintilis” translated as “fifth” in latin. When the Gregorian calendar was adopted, it became the seventh month of the year. It still kept the name “quintilis” until the death of Julius Caesar, also the month of Julius Caesar’s birth so it was renamed in his honor.
Although, I was in the travel industry before launching my agency, Vacation Side Travel itself is relatively new and I’ve had to navigate the travel industry landscape to figure out what works best for me and my business which is a totally different ballgame than being employed by an established travel agency. In the past few months, I’ve learned a lot, including:
- How to prioritize time between sales and marketing and which one is most important.
- What tools are best for my travel business, including CRM, social media as well as quote/proposal and itinerary generation.
- The importance of focusing in on a specific travel niche or market and why it’s key to my success.
In my experience, when first starting an agency, the first major decision is figuring out how to choose a host agency. For many, it is a difficult decision – it was for me. First I went through Kelly Monaghan’s Travel Agency Success Course and although extremely helpful, I still ended up sitting through every host agency webinar I could find–and there are many! The more I went through, the more confused I’d become. I started out with one host agency, which I felt like was lacking in technology. Then, I went to another host; selected because of their technology; and ended up back with the first one!
As I reflect on the first half of the year in terms of my travel business, I can’t help but notice some similarities between the transformation of my business and some historical events that took place during the month of July. Most notably, the signing of The Declaration of Independence, by John Hancock on July 4, 1776. That historical event is symbolic of my decision to stake my own independence as an agency. Every agent and agency has their own needs but for me, it is important to form my own strategic partnerships with suppliers. After all, the commission levels with a host may be higher with many suppliers due to their volume but that extra few percentage points doesn’t make up for having to give up a chunk of money in the commission split with the host. Plus, having my own relationship with suppliers means I’m that much closer to obtaining my own commission overrides in the future. From a strategic standpoint, it just makes sense. Looking back at all the time I spent researching and changing hosts seemed wasteful at first but it was just a journey I had to take!
As you reflect, perhaps giving you and your business a midyear review, what are a few of the lessons you’ve learned in your business over the past 6 months? Do you have any major milestones to share? What have you accomplished, any challenges? Please share using the comments section below!
Have a happy and safe 4th of July weekend!
Steven Talbott is the founder of Vacation Side Travel, a gay owned-and-operated agency located near Nashville, Tennessee specializing in gay & lesbian (LGBT) tours, cruises, vacations and travel. Through their division Gay Travel Experts, clients are offered an expert travel concierge, unbiased personal assistants who help research and plan travel. Connect with Steven!